The Welsh Government has been urged to work with the UK Government to ensure a ban on disposable vapes applies to Wales, or risk wildlife protection falling behind other nations in Great Britain.
That’s the call from RSPCA Cymru – who has highlighted the risks disposable vapes pose to animal welfare and the environment.
In England, reports suggest the UK Government is set to bring forward proposals that would ban disposable vapes – while Scotland is also consulting on a ban.
While public health and wildlife protection are devolved matters, and the Welsh Government previously tried to ban the use of e-cigarettes in enclosed and public places, Welsh Ministers have suggested they do not have the devolved power to ban disposable vapes.
If a ban is not in force in Wales, RSPCA Cymru is concerned suppliers of disposable vapes could focus remaining stock on Wales-based consumers – putting wildlife at further risk.
Disposable vapes and their impact on animals has been a growing concern for the charity’s officers on the frontline. They contain materials and poisonous substances including plastic, lithium and nicotine, all of which can be hazardous to animals.
Across England and Wales, between 2020 and 2022, 10,482 calls about litter were made to the charity’s emergency line, and it is believed vapes have been contributing to the problem. A sizable 483 of those calls came from Wales.
In July, the RSPCA backed calls from the Local Government Association, which represents local authorities in England and Wales, for a ban on the sale and manufacture of single use vapes by 2024.
Billie-Jade Thomas, public affairs manager for RSPCA Cymru, added: “Disposable vapes are a real menace for animals – and we know massive numbers are being carelessly dumped as litter and posing a risk to wildlife.
“It’s great news that plans for a ban are progressing, but it’s so important any ban extends to Wales. If it doesn’t, we’re concerned that suppliers may even turn their attention to the Welsh market if other nations in Great Britain have banned them.
“Animals could be in danger by ingesting liquid from discarded, disposable vapes; while strewn devices can also impact habitats. Dealing with this in Wales will be positive for the environment and for animal welfare, and ensure wildlife isn’t left vulnerable. That’s why we urge the UK Government and Welsh Government to work together to bring clarity to this situation, and ensure disposable vapes become a thing of the past in Wales.”
New research from Material Focus* suggests the number of disposable vapes being discarded each week has increased to five million – with three percent of UK vapers – including eight percent of 16-18 year olds – admitting they drop single-use vapes on the ground.
A survey from the charity – as part of its #VexedAboutVapes campaign – showed 94% of respondents supported a ban on disposable vapes.
Carrie Stones, campaigns manager for the charity, added: “Our survey found that more than 90 percent of respondents were concerned about the impact disposable vapes have on both the environment and wildlife.
“More than seven in ten people also said they’d found discarded disposable vapes – highlighting how widespread this litter is, and the potential threat to animals. That highlights how important it is for disposable vapes to be banned in Wales.”
More information on the charity’s #VexedAboutVapes campaign can be found online.