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UK Vape Law: Are Stricter Regulations on the Horizon

Navigating the labyrinth of vaping laws can be a challenging task, especially when you’re in a country that has a rich tapestry of regulations and public opinion on the matter. The United Kingdom stands out as a fascinating case study; its stance on vaping is often considered more liberal compared to other nations, yet it is not without its complexities and controversies.

According to my last update in January 2022, key bodies like Public Health England and the National Health Service (NHS) have gone as far as endorsing vaping as a lesser evil compared to traditional tobacco smoking. However, this endorsement does not give vaping a free pass. Specific rules and regulations, often nuanced, govern various aspects of vaping—from the size and content of e-liquid bottles to advertising and health warnings.

And let’s not forget the wildcard that is Brexit. Despite the UK’s decision to part ways with the European Union, the existing regulations formed under EU governance remain in effect. The question is: for how long?

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve deep into the current state of vaping laws in the UK, explore their implications for both consumers and the industry, and contrast the UK’s position with other countries that have taken a harder line against vaping. Whether you’re a casual vaper, a concerned parent, or an industry stakeholder, it’s crucial to stay updated on the legal landscape that affects us all.

uk vape law

What Are The Vaping Laws in the UK?

The landscape of vaping laws in the United Kingdom is nuanced, yet relatively lenient compared to other parts of the world. As of my last update in January 2022, the UK has not taken steps to ban vaping entirely. In fact, agencies like Public Health England and the National Health Service (NHS) have endorsed vaping as a less harmful alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes and as an aid for those wishing to quit smoking.

The regulatory environment in the UK is primarily guided by the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016, in compliance with the European Union’s Tobacco Products Directive. These regulations have imposed various measures to ensure consumer safety and product quality. For instance, e-liquid bottles cannot exceed 10ml, and the nicotine strength is capped at 20mg/ml. Advertising for vaping products is also restricted, and all products must carry health warnings. Manufacturers are required to notify the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) about any new products they intend to market, with a six-month waiting period before they can be sold to consumers.

Despite the UK’s departure from the European Union, these regulations are still in effect and there’s no immediate indication that Brexit will lead to a relaxation or tightening of vape laws. It’s worth noting that local ordinances also play a role; for example, many public areas where smoking is prohibited also ban vaping.

In stark contrast, countries like India and Brazil have imposed total bans on e-cigarettes, citing health concerns as the primary reason. In the United States, the situation is more fragmented with federal, state, and local laws intersecting in complex ways, leading to a lack of uniformity in regulations.

That said, it’s essential to remember that laws and regulations are subject to change. The emergence of new scientific evidence regarding the health impacts of vaping could lead to further regulations or even a shift towards more restrictive policies. Several controversies, like the rise of vaping among teenagers and the concerns around vaping-associated lung injury (VALI), have already triggered calls for more stringent laws.

Therefore, both consumers and industry stakeholders should stay abreast of the latest scientific findings and legal developments concerning vaping. While the UK currently seems committed to a regulatory approach rather than an outright ban, the fluid nature of both public opinion and scientific understanding means that the status quo could change.

Vapes Problem of UK

When it comes to the safety of vaping, the landscape is anything but clear-cut. While some organizations like Public Health England advocate for its relative safety, others vehemently dispute such claims. The topic has been a focal point for healthcare providers, scientists, and regulatory agencies around the globe, leading to an array of conflicting viewpoints and policies.

One of the most potent arguments in favor of vaping comes from a 2015 report by Public Health England, which boldly claimed that vaping is 95% safer than smoking traditional tobacco products. The premise is largely based on the absence of known harmful elements like tar and carbon monoxide in e-cigarettes. However, this conclusion has met with significant resistance, particularly from researchers in the United States. American studies have raised concerns about the potential for vaping to cause lung diseases such as bronchiolitis obliterans, commonly known as “popcorn lung,” and even asthma. Some research has even identified carcinogenic compounds in certain flavored e-liquids, like pulegone and formaldehyde.

The polarizing research outcomes have had a considerable impact on global regulatory approaches. For instance, countries like India, Japan, and Singapore have banned the sale of e-cigarettes entirely, citing unresolved safety concerns. On the other hand, countries like the UK have embraced vaping as a less harmful alternative to smoking and included it in public health campaigns aimed at reducing smoking rates. This divergence in international regulation adds another layer of complexity to the already challenging subject.

The most alarming aspect is undoubtedly the sharp increase in vaping among minors. Data from Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) in the UK indicate that vaping has seen a significant uptick among 11-17 year-olds. The numbers are indeed staggering, showing an increase from 13.9% in 2020 to 20.5% recently. This substantial rise has led to schools flagging the issue as a significant concern, with vaping becoming more and more prevalent in educational settings.

Further fueling the youth vaping epidemic is the omnipresence of vaping-related content on social media platforms like TikTok, which has made vaping seem more socially acceptable among teens. This situation is worsened by the fact that many vapes found circulating in British schools are illegal, untested, and contain harmful elements like nickel, chromium, and lead, which have been linked to serious health issues, including negative impacts on brain development and the central nervous system.

The issue of nicotine dependency is another area warranting scrutiny. Nicotine, although a milder toxin compared to other substances found in traditional cigarettes, can lead to cardiovascular problems. Moreover, there’s a growing concern that nicotine dependency via vaping may act as a gateway to more dangerous tobacco products, potentially undoing decades of anti-smoking campaigns and progress.

uk vape law

Ban the Sale of Vapes to Teenagers Ander 18 Since 2015

In light of the escalating crisis surrounding youth vaping, the UK government, led by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, has unveiled new plans targeting a major loophole in existing laws. This loophole currently allows vape manufacturers and retailers to offer free samples to minors. Closing this loophole represents a critical aspect of the government’s multi-pronged approach to address the significant and concerning increase in vaping among children and teenagers.

Recent NHS statistics from 2021 revealed a disturbing trend: e-cigarette usage among children aged 11 to 15 had increased from 6% in 2018 to 9%. The issue becomes even more alarming when considering newer data from 2023, showing that 20.5% of children had tried vaping, with a significant number doing so out of curiosity or peer pressure.

Prime Minister Sunak, expressing deep concern, stated, “I am deeply concerned about the sharp rise in kids vaping and shocked by reports of illicit vapes containing lead getting into the hands of school children.” His concern is far from unfounded. The exponential growth in vaping experimentation—from 7.7% in 2022 to 11.6% in 2023—is particularly significant. While the rate of current vaping showed a less pronounced increase, from 6.9% to 7.6%, the figures remain worrying.

Not only is the government focusing on nicotine-based products, but a review into the sale of ‘nicotine-free’ vapes to those under 18 is also in the works. This is in acknowledgment of the rapidly evolving landscape of vaping products, some of which appear specifically designed to be attractive to younger users. These points were further emphasized during the Prime Minister and Chief Medical Officer’s recent visit to Kent Scientific Services, a facility specializing in analyzing e-cigarette content.

Additionally, the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is taking steps to bolster their notification processes. Vape products, including disposables, must be notified to the MHRA before they can be marketed. Recent initiatives by the agency have targeted non-compliant vape products, representing another layer of the government’s approach to this complex issue.

According to a recent Action on Smoking and Health Smokefree GB Youth Survey from 2023, the reasons children take up vaping are concerning. About 2 out of 5 young individuals admitted to trying vaping “just to give it a try,” while roughly 1 in 5 claimed to do so because “other people use them, so I join in.”

The ongoing situation is further exacerbated by how children acquire vapes. The most frequent source is physical shops (48%), followed closely by gifts (46%). A considerable number also reported informal purchases (26%), underlining the need for stricter laws.

As a further measure, education on the health risks associated with vaping will be included in Relationships, Sex, and Health Education (RSHE) classes, reflecting the government’s commitment to utilizing multiple avenues to tackle the issue.

The Prime Minister wrapped up his statement by affirming his commitment to eradicating this practice, saying, “The marketing and the illegal sales of vapes to children are completely unacceptable, and I will do everything in my power to end this practice for good.”

Countries Ban Vapes

The e-cigarette industry has experienced tremendous growth over the past decade, positioning itself as an alternative to traditional tobacco smoking. While some nations have embraced this trend, viewing vaping as a lesser evil compared to tobacco, others have imposed strict regulations or outright bans.The Rationale Behind Bans

The primary reasons countries opt for banning e-cigarettes usually boil down to public health concerns and the absence of long-term studies confirming their safety. Particularly concerning is the rapid increase in youth vaping rates. Nations like India and Thailand have cited these as key factors in their decision to enforce full-scale bans.

Countries with Complete Bans

India: In 2019, the Indian government banned the production, import, and sale of e-cigarettes, citing health risks and the rising number of young vapers. Violators face a jail term of up to three years.

Thailand: Known for its stringent anti-smoking laws, Thailand has a complete ban on e-cigarettes. Ignorance isn’t considered an excuse, and tourists caught vaping can face heavy fines or even imprisonment.

Brazil: Despite its reputation for party-loving freedom, Brazil has had a comprehensive ban on e-cigarettes since 2014. The sale, import, and advertising of any vaping devices or e-liquids are illegal.

Singapore: This city-state has one of the most rigorous anti-vaping laws globally. The use, purchase, or possession of e-cigarettes is banned, with violators facing fines up to SGD5,000 for first-time offenders.

Countries with Partial Bans or Heavy Restrictions

Australia: While vaping isn’t illegal, the sale of nicotine-containing e-liquids requires a doctor’s prescription. Each state also has its own set of regulations governing the use and sale of e-cigarettes.

Norway: Norway classifies e-cigarettes and e-liquids as medicinal products. Therefore, you can only purchase them from pharmacies or places approved to sell medicinal products.

Japan: Japan doesn’t ban e-cigarettes but forbids the sale and import of e-liquids containing nicotine. Instead, a specific kind of vape product, “heat-not-burn” tobacco, is legally sold.


If you’re caught violating e-cigarette bans or restrictions, penalties can range from fines to imprisonment. For example, in Thailand, those found guilty could face a fine of up to THB 30,000 or even a prison sentence. Even if you’re a tourist, ignorance of the law is no defense. Therefore, it’s crucial to know the regulations of the country you’re visiting to avoid any unfortunate legal confrontations.

uk vape law


Navigating the ever-changing landscape of vaping laws and regulations can be a daunting task, not just in the UK but globally. What’s clear is that public opinion and scientific understanding continue to evolve, influencing policy decisions. While the UK currently adopts a somewhat lenient approach, endorsing vaping as a less harmful alternative to smoking, looming controversies like youth vaping and potential health risks could tilt the scale towards more restrictive measures. Similarly, countries with strict bans cite public health concerns as their rationale, leaving no room for compromise. As vaping technology and research advance, consumers and stakeholders alike must remain vigilant, staying updated on legal shifts that could significantly impact the industry and its user base.

If you want to know more, please refer to the following article:

Vape Breaker Team

A professional team of 7 e-cigarette enthusiasts from all over the world. We are committed to providing e-cigarette users around the world with the most professional e-cigarette reviews, the latest information, and the most comprehensive guides, etc.

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