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Environmental and health groups have issued a joint open letter to the UK government demanding a ban on the sale of single-use e-cigarettes.

The groups, including Green Alliance, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the Marine Conservation Society and the RSPCA, sent an open letter to the Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey and Health Secretary Steve Barclay, saying vaping is a “rapidly escalating threat” to public health and the environment.

The demand follows research from Material Focus earlier in the year that showed that at least 1.3 million disposable vapes are thrown away every week, equating to two vapes per second, enough to fill 22 football pitches per year.

The groups argue that disposable vapes are “unnecessary electrical items” that contain single-use plastic, nicotine and batteries, all of which are “hazardous to the environment and wildlife when littered”.

The products also contain lithium, which is a critical material for the net zero transition, such as in the manufacture of electric vehicles. The ten tonnes of lithium discarded from disposable vapes each year is the same as needed for 1,200 electric vehicles, according to the research from Material Focus.

Meanwhile, uptake of disposable vapes among young people is “particularly concerning”, write the groups, with a seven-fold increase in the percentage of 11 to 17-year-olds opting for disposable products since 2021, according to Action on Smoking Health.

The letter outlines how – rather than helping existing smokers to give up the habit – multiple health professionals have warned that disposable vapes risk creating a new generation hooked on nicotine, with emerging evidence showing there could be an increased risk of chronic lung conditions.

Libby Peake, head of resource policy at Green Alliance, said: “We need to be moving towards durable and reusable products designed sustainably, not inventing new ways to cause harm to the wildlife and wasting valuable resources. Ministers must act swiftly to ban disposable vapes to protect young people and our environment from this new and entirely avoidable threat.”

Dr Honey Smith, director and co-chair of the national leads group of Greener Practice, said: “As a GP I see the effects of smoking every day of my working life.

“There has been recent evidence that use of e-cigarettes is just as bad for the blood vessels as smoking cigarettes. Also, teenagers who vape are three to four times more likely to smoke cigarettes later in life.

“So it’s very concerning that products are widely available that are especially attractive to teenagers, encouraging them to take up a habit that might cause them long-term health problems.”

Scott Butler, executive director of recycling charity Material Focus, said producers and retailers of vapes need to stop marketing single-use vapes as disposable products.

Chris Tuckett, director of programmes at Marine Conservation Society, added: “Unfortunately our beach clean volunteers have started to see single-use vapes littered on our beaches around the UK. These products are made up of lots of different materials, which are rarely recycled, and pose a threat to marine life when littered.”

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