NEWS AND VIEWS: The UK government is concerned about the environmental impact of disposable vapes. I am concerned about the damaging impact that disposable vapes can have on animals particularly dogs. I am frankly surprised that the UK government has allowed commercial manufacturers to produce this product in such huge numbers. An estimated 4.3 million people in the UK use e-cigarettes up from about 800,000 ten years ago. It has been described as a ‘vaping revolution’.
Sky.com states that around 168 million disposable vapes are being brought annually in the UK. That’s in 2022. It’s probably worse today, a year later.
Most disposable vapes end up in landfill but many also end up in the environment where they are a danger to dogs out for a walk with their owner.
This was brought home recently by Conservative MP Neil Hudson, a veterinarian, who raised the risk of disposable vapes to pets in a debate in Westminster Hall. He said:
“Just the other day, I was out walking my young dog Poppy and she came out of the undergrowth with a bright pink, melon-flavoured disposable vape in her mouth. I was able to get it out of her mouth, but, as a vet, I shudder to think what would have happened if she had chewed, crunched or swallowed it.”
The slow-moving UK government is working on the problem. They are working towards the goal of making England a smoke-free zone by 2030 I’m told. They believe that vaping has a role to play in reducing cigarette smoking but the way I see it this is a dangerous policy.
There are health concerns with vaping and I don’t think we know enough about these health concerns to allow vaping to take place in an unregulated way by children and teenagers. And it is children and teenagers who are targeted by tobacco companies who I presume we are trying to make up ground from the gradually waning cigarette market.
For dogs, it isn’t just the real danger of chewing on and swallowing a discarded, disposable vape. There is also the danger of inhaling e-cigarette smoke.
VCA Animal Hospitals in Canada say that they present a risk to humans in much the same way as with regular cigarettes. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in America.
And vapes contain a battery. If a dog chews on the product the battery inside the vape can cause gastrointestinal injury or a blockage. The rechargeable battery can burn the oesophagus if it is swallowed by a dog. There is no safe part for a dog in an e-cigarette.
There is a substance called Xylitol which can be found in nicotine gums and in e-cigarette liquid. This can cause a drop in blood sugar and liver damage.
Suffice to say that there are real dangers to pets in making mass quantities of e-cigarettes designed to be disposable which encourages young people to throw them to the ground. The government needs to step in urgently to deal with this for many reasons one of which is animal welfare.
Update provided by The Times newspaper Wednesday, June 21, 2023: They have a headline which dates: “Australia’s vape ban could help Britain”.
The UK government is going to seek to share lessons on vaping regulation in Australia. In Australia, nicotine e-cigarettes are only available on prescription. Steve Barclay, the Health Secretary, said that there are particular concerns around vapes being marketed to children and that the government is looking actively at how to combat it. But the UK government believes that vapes help people kick the nicotine habit and are therefore seeking a balanced response. What about animals Mr Barclay?
The Australian government announced a crackdown last month which will ban the importation and sale of e-cigarettes whether they contain nicotine or not unless they are supplied by prescription from a licensed pharmacist.