Are Disposable Vapes Legal? How To Spot Illegal Vapes

Are Disposable Vapes Legal? How To Spot Illegal Vapes

Plus, why you should look out for illegal vapes.

21 November 2022 | Hannah Rubery

Are Disposable Vapes Legal? How To Spot Illegal Vapes (Image)

Disposable vapes have flourished in popularity in the UK and around the world, and there’s no real surprise as to why. They offer a cheap, quick way for vapers to get a nicotine fix on the go without fuss or mess. If you’ve been under a rock these past few years and haven’t seen a disposable vape before, these handheld devices are usually slimline and extremely portable. Each device, often shaped like a pen but have evolved into a variety of new shapes, contains a pre-filled amount of E-Liquid, battery and coil. As they are disposable, they are single-use only and cannot be recharged or re-filled.

With the popularity of disposable vapes booming, more and more have begun to filter into the UK from around the world. This wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t for the varying vape regulations across the seas. Many countries have different vaping regulations which regulate everything from the E-Liquid strength, capacity, battery size and even flavours. So, what fits for one country may not necessarily be fit for purpose in another.

Are disposable vapes legal in the UK?

Yes, in short, disposable vapes are very much legal in the UK however, that is if they conform to UK regulations. Disposable vapes are a great first step for smokers looking to take up vaping to quit cigarettes, as they don’t require much investment or prior knowledge. They are also great for giving new vapers a means of testing new flavours and brands without potentially buying a whole bottle of E-Liquid that they may not like.

It's important to note though, that regulations on vape products can change quite often. At the time of writing this article, disposables are legal but there’s no saying that down the line, this could change.

What makes a disposable vape legal in the UK & EU

In the UK, the TRPR (Tobacco and Related Products Regulations) stipulates what legal requirements vaping products must meet, to be sold within the UK. The EU has TPD (Tobacco Products Directive) guidelines which are mostly the same as the UK’s guidelines. For disposable vapes to be legal in the UK, they must contain no more than 2ml of E-Liquid, they must be no stronger than 20mg in nicotine strength and must not contain any ingredients that have been deemed unsafe.

In terms of product packaging, there are also specific requirements that must be met to be legal in the UK. Disposables should include a leaflet with information on including instructions for use and storage and that the product is not recommended for young people or non-smokers. On the product packaging, there should be a nicotine warning; “This product contains nicotine which is a highly addictive substance” which covers 30% of the front and back, plus all other necessary health warnings and age restriction.

Generally, disposable vapes in the UK are legal within a certain range of puffs. To adhere to all of the above regulations, a disposable vape that is legal for use in the UK should include no more than 650 puffs. Anything higher is likely to have a higher capacity than is legal.

What makes a disposable vape legal in the US

In the US, vaping is still largely unregulated with no clear definition for the limits on nicotine strength, capacity size etc. However, there have been steps taken by the FDA to try and regulate vaping better in the US. For one, vaping products must now go through the FDA for approval with only a few chosen vape brands having so far been successfully approved. This, however, has not yet been thoroughly enforced so there are still many vapes in the market that are not FDA-approved.

Why you should look out for illegal disposable vapes

One of the main reasons for this is that illegal disposable vapes are potentially not safe. Many regulations are in place to ensure that your products are safe and of good quality. For example, the UK regulations include a list of banned additives from E-Liquid and disposables, due to health concerns. Those that don’t comply with these regulations could include harmful ingredients.

Similarly, those listed with much higher nicotine strengths could be higher than you anticipate when taking a puff. Having too much nicotine can create unpleasant side effects such as headaches, nausea, light-headedness, abdominal pain and increased blood pressure.

Although many of these high-puff disposable vapes that have crept into the UK market are likely safe for use in other countries, they are not legal in the UK. Countries such as the UEA allow for much larger E-Liquid capacities and therefore higher puff counts. This does not make them unsafe, but it does make them illegal in the UK.

There is always a potential for regulations to change that could see the allowed nicotine strength raised, but until such time, if your disposable has more than 650 puffs then it is likely to be illegal.