Vaping has had a curious evolution to date. Once upon a time it was being hailed as The Next Big Thing, and that excitement reached fever pitch when Juul first landed in the UK. Interestingly, the first time Juul ever publicly spoke on these shores was at a vaping event organised by SLR and, unsurprisingly, we had very little trouble attracting an audience that day. Vaping was on course, we learned, to overtake tobacco and conquer the world.
As we all know now, it didn’t quite pan out that way. Vaping as a category promptly flatlined and looked like it was set to be another one of those fads. Like energy shots. Anyone remember them? But then along came disposables and, with the help of Elf Bar in particular, the category did indeed go stratospheric. There are stores that see a full 30% of their entire turnover come through vaping now. There are, however, problems ahead.
Single-use vaping products were always going to attract the attention of the Scottish Government. At the recent SGF conference it was revealed that around 15 million disposables are sold a week in the UK. And that’s only the legit ones. So you can probably triple that number. While the Scottish Government has already committed to dealing with the problem in its own inimitable way, it turns out that to ban single use vapes in Scotland it would need another one of those pesky Internal Market exemptions. You know the ones. The ones that stopped DRS happening. Those ones.
So the issue has become a UK issue, driven by the UK government, and a UK-wide public consultation was recently issued. The two key challenges are youth access and environmental impact. Youth access is relatively straightforward for us to tackle. Everyone applies a Challenge 25 policy. Job done, at least in the legitimate local retailing sector.
The bigger challenge is the environmental one. It’s a massively complex problem but it’s one that we need to address if we hope to demonstrate to the UK government that we take it seriously and are working towards a solution.
Time is not on our side but we need to give it a go, which is why SLR and SGF are working together to try to help our sector tackle these challenges head on and demonstrate loudly and clearly that we are doing our bit. It’s our only hope of avoiding a flat-out ban and, frankly, it’s a faint hope at best – but I would ask you all to join us on this journey for the good of our sector and the communities we serve.
Antony Begley, Publishing Director, SLR