Shipping container full of illegal vapes can’t be disposed of because there is no safe way to do so

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A shipping container full of illegal vapes worth £300,000 is still waiting to disposed of by trading standards because it has no way of doing so safely, it has been revealed.

It comes as Hampshire County Council also sought approval from the council leader to sign the ‘Local Government Declaration on Tobacco Control’ at the same time as the Tobacco and Vapes Bill was voted in the House of Commons. The commitment, which follows the Prime Minister’s plan for a smoke-free generation, will allow the county council to develop ‘smoke-free’ policies, support staff to quit smoking, prevent electronic cigarette use, or train frontline staff to deliver smoking cessation support.

During the Hampshire County Council cabinet meeting, Cllr Russell Oppenheimer, the executive member for the countryside and regulatory services, highlighted the county council’s work to tackle youth vaping since last year, the full council approved a motion to fight against the trend.

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Cllr Oppenheimer said: “I’m very proud that at Hampshire, we’ve been ahead of the curve in our crackdown on youth vaping, which we started 18 months ago. Trading standards have been enforced by visiting every single vape retailer in the county. There’s been a strong deterrent effect from this to sales to young people under the age of 16. Indeed, two shops were busted for doing that, and they’re now under investigation.”

Cllr Oppenheimer in a shipping container full of confiscated vapesCllr Oppenheimer in a shipping container full of confiscated vapes
Cllr Oppenheimer in a shipping container full of confiscated vapes

However, despite efforts, the councillor pointed out that disposable vapes are “ultimately” negative and “bad” for society since they contain chemicals that “we don’t yet fully understand” and “don’t know exactly what the long-term implications are”. He said that emerging data from America showed a link with “serious conditions” such as cardiovascular disease, asthma or chronic lung disease, increasing his feeling that “ we must let children anywhere near these vapes”.

The councillor is also concerned about the waste implications of disposable vapes. He said that the trading standards office has a shipping container full of confiscated vapes worth £300,000, but they are unable to dispose of them properly.

Cllr Oppenheimer said: “I visited the trading standards office about six weeks ago, and they’ve got a shipping container full of confiscated vapes. Over £300,000 worth of vapes that have been confiscated. These are vapes that don’t meet the regulations. They’ve got too many chemicals in them.

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“It’s great that we’ve got these off the streets, but they have a real problem disposing of these vapes. There’s no obvious thing to do with them. We can’t incinerate them because of the batteries. We can’t send them to landfill because of the chemicals. They have to be pulled apart, which is a manual process and very expensive. It’s been suggested to me that we can perhaps send them to Ukraine, and we will look into that because, apparently, they need the batteries.”

Although vapes could help people quit smoking, the councillor considered that disposable vapes should be banned due to the waste implication. He added: “The waste implications of vapes are quite shocking. There is a role for vaping for people who have a habit of smoking and want to get off. Then I think you know there is justification. I don’t say that we should ban vaping, but I do think disposable vapes should be banned. I’m glad the government is going in that direction. I do think youth vaping is something we should continue to crack down on, and I’m sure we will.”

Cllr Steve Forster asked the director of public health, Symon Bryant, whether vapes are good for quitting smoking or if it’s bad for the health of young people. “From my perspective, if you don’t smoke, don’t vape. Fairly clear about that. If you smoke, vaping or e-cigarette use is better because it contains fewer chemicals, but actually, what we don’t want to do is move somebody from one addiction to another addiction. What has sounded to me is that what we saw was a rising trend of single-use, colourful, and flavoured vapes, which would, in my mind, be more attractive to young people rather than as a tool for quitting.

“Part of this legislation going through Parliament is to close that loophole because whilst you couldn’t sell to children, you could supply. I think we need to be clear that e-cigarettes are a great quitting tool. They are good because the way they work, but let’s make it absolutely clear I don’t think it’s good for young people or children to vape.”

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In 2022, it was estimated that 10.5 per cent of the adult residents in Hampshire smoked. Figures also show that every year in Hampshire, 4,522 residents die and 8,631 are admitted to hospital each year because of smoking.