THE Scottish Government has pledged to act against the “big problem” caused by single-use vapes.

Circular economy minister Lorna Slater spoke about the impact that disposable vapes had on the environment, communities and young people, pledging to outline action to tackle the problem this autumn.

Green MSP Gillian Mackay, however, insisted the Scottish Government should lead the way in the UK by banning such products.

Mackay, her party’s health spokesperson at Holyrood, stated: “Disposable vapes are a modern day scourge with many unknown risks for people’s health and for young users in particular.

“They are also cluttering our high streets and having a real and profoundly harmful impact on our environment.”

She added: “Scotland can lead the change across the UK by stopping these companies from targeting children and from banning the sale of disposable vapes for good.”

Mackay spoke out after a review, carried out for the Scottish Government by Zero Waste Scotland, found that in the year to early April 2023, between 21 and 26 million disposable vapes were estimated to have been used in Scotland.

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The research found 543,000 Scots are using vapes, and that almost a tenth (9%) of them were under 16, with 51,000 vapers in this age group, while 78,000 vapers (14%) are under the age of 18.

Most under-18s who use e-cigarettes were said to prefer single-use vapes.

Overall, just over a tenth (10.8%) of the adult population were said to be regular users of e-cigarettes – with more than a quarter (27%) of this group estimated to be using single-use e-cigarettes.

The review, which looked at the environmental impact these products have, estimated that in 2022 disposable vapes were responsible for up to 4292 tonnes of CO2 emissions – the equivalent of the amount produced by about 2100 cars.

While disposable vapes are thrown away after a single use, the batteries typically used in them could be recharged 500 times if design of the product allowed for this, the report added.

To tackle such problems it outlined nine possible measure ministers could introduce to tackle the environmental impact of disposable vapes – including a ban on sales.

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Other measures suggested charging a deposit when single-use vapes are sold, with this returned when the items are brought back for recycling, or introducing a levy on sales which would be paid by consumers.

A ban on flavoured e-cigarettes is another alternative proposed, along with tightening the enforcement of existing laws in relation to underage sales.

But Mackay said: “The advice from experts, medical professionals, councils and campaigners is clear. A ban is a necessary and obvious step to ensure generations of young people don’t suffer future harm.”

Speaking on behalf of the Scottish Government, Lorna Slater said: “This report shows that single-use vapes have become a big problem – for our environment, local communities and young people.

“I will take action and will engage with those affected, including young people, over the coming months, with a view to setting out a way forward in the autumn.”

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She added: “Single use vapes are an issue across the UK, so I have invited ministers from the other UK Governments to meet to discuss the findings of the report and what we can do in response.”

With retailers of single-use vapes already being required to take these back for safe disposal, or contribute to the cost of recycling, Slater noted that this was “clearly not happening as it should”.

She added she would write to the UK Government on this “to share our findings and to ask what they will do to ensure these obligations are met”.

Meanwhile, Iain Gulland, chief executive of Zero Waste Scotland, said: “Any form of littering is unacceptable – it damages the environment, economy, and is a blight on the areas where we live, work, and socialise.

“Single-use vapes are made up of components which, unless disposed of safely and responsibly, can last on our planet for years and years. And the sight of them, discarded on our streets, is becoming far too common.

“This is why Zero Waste Scotland was happy to lead on this important report. Tackling our throwaway culture is a priority for us and we will continue to work with the Scottish Government in highlighting the huge impact that littering these items has on the environment.”