A LEADING campaigner for a ban on the sale of single-use vapes fears the UK Government could ruin Scotland’s chances of bringing in the measure.

Laura Young, 27, got the nation’s attention in January when she highlighted the amount of litter disposable vapes were creating in Dundee – after she found 55 of them during an hour-long walk.

Eight months on and the Scottish Government has committed to launching a consultation on banning their sale in its Programme for Government, as well as taking action to reduce vaping among non-smokers and young people.

There is increasing concern about the environmental damage the items are causing given they contain copper wires and lithium batteries, making them difficult to dispose of responsibly.

Research from recycling campaign group Material Focus has found five million disposable vapes are thrown away each week in the UK and only 17% of vapers recycle the products in the correct bins.

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Equally, there is now an epidemic of children as young as primary school age trying out e-cigarettes, creating a major public health concern.

Young, who is studying for a PhD looking at climate resilience, said she has been astounded at the speed Government officials have committed to act on the problem.

But she admitted she fears any Scottish attempt to prohibit the sale of disposable vapes could hit the buffers because of the UK Government’s recent record of blocking the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) via the Internal Market Act.

She told the Sunday National: “I think it might get turned down, but that depends on how much Scotland is able to influence up.

“The hard thing is Scotland has been quite leading in the UK on this, but every nation is concerned.”

The Scottish Government has already said action on single-use vapes is likely to require a similar exclusion from the Internal Market Act to that which was required for the DRS.

The National: Laura Young has campaigned strongly against the sale of disposable vapes Laura Young has campaigned strongly against the sale of disposable vapes (Image: Laura Young)

The DRS – which was due to launch in the summer of this year - was granted an exemption but only if glass was taken out of Scottish plans to make it align with the scheme proposed for England. This led to the scheme being delayed until at least October 2025.

There has also been speculation that policies brought in by the Scottish Government prior to the Internal Market Act coming in post-Brexit – such as minimum unit pricing - would now face serious hurdles.

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Young said a scheme brought in in England called Swap to Stop, where one million smokers are being encouraged to switch to vapes instead of cigarettes, is evidence of a pro-vape attitude south of the Border which could cause disputes between the two Governments down the line.

She said: “There is a problem in that England is very pro-vape.

“They’ve done this swap-to-stop scheme where they are trying to get smokers to vape. I think they’re just not willing [to look into banning disposables ].

“There is a Conservative MP Caroline Johnson who is championing a ban down south but I have a fear that, like the DRS, it’s going to get swept up in that [political wrangle].

“As somebody from Scotland, it’s interesting that when you try and campaign about something, you get put in the ‘Scotland box’, as in ‘just go and deal with that in Scotland’.

“That’s why it’s so important to have the Scottish Government strongly on a ban.”

While she insisted she was pleased with the pace at which the Scottish Government has responded, she claimed ministers could have been much bolder in committing to a ban from the off and consulting on how that is best carried out.

A total of 29 of Scotland’s 32 councils have come out in support of a ban after discussing motions, while MSPs from across different parties have spoken out in favour of one.

Young feels this is already enough proof of backing and being bolder could have helped the SNP/Green government in the event of an Internal Market Act debate transpiring.

“I almost just wish the Government could say they just want a ban and let’s just consult on how to make that work. It could have been stronger,” added Young.

“Scotland is not world-leading on this, there are many other countries that have gone further and faster on vaping. We still don’t really know what the Government thinks about this.

“I think if we’re not crystal clear on this, there’s potential for the UK Government to water it down.”

Disposable vapes come with a heap of environmental problems beyond just being litter, including that they are a major fire risk because of flammable batteries that cannot easily be disposed of.

They cannot be put in general waste, normal recycling bins or in battery waste at a recycling centre and can only be disposed of as WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) waste.

By law, every shop that sells vapes is meant to take them back, but this costs money to provide and many choose not to do it.

Waste facilities are also now finding it hard to get insurance because of the risk the batteries pose.

The number of children and young people trying out vaping has also doubled in the last year, despite the fact it is illegal for under-18s to buy e-cigs.

South Lanarkshire Council last week found one in three retailers in the area were selling vapes to those underage following a test purchasing exercise.

Vapes are unsafe for children to use due to containing highly addictive nicotine which can harm brain development. Recent research also found some vapes confiscated from school pupils contained high levels of lead, nickel and chromium.

Young said: “The fact we’ve managed to get action on this so fast speaks to the fact it’s not just a litter problem or a fire risk or a public health issue, it’s all of it together and you can’t not act in the face of that.”

The Scottish Government declined to comment further. The UK Government did not respond to an approach for comment.