With the rise of underage vaping, the UK's new tax on vapes could see adult vapers paying a hefty price for choosing a healthier lifestyle. Will this be a blessing for the illicit vaping industry?


Key Takeaways

  • In March 2024 the UK government introduced a new tax on vaping that could see some bottles of e-liquid double in price.
  • The vape tax will be implemented on the 1st October 2026, and is aimed at preventing youth vaping.
  • Up to £445M in revenue is expected to be generated by 2028/29, this has been promised to the NHS and Trading Standards.

 


The government took a heavy swing at vaping in the 2024 Spring Budget announcement earlier this year. UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt introduced a new Tobacco and Vapes Bill that will ban disposables on 1st April 2025. This came as a blow if not an unsurprising one, but the unveiling of a massive tax increase on all e-liquids left the vaping community stunned. This levy is aimed at an industry that is endorsed by health professionals(1) as a much safer alternative to smoking and seems ill-timed given the current cost of living crisis and the government's plan to phase out smoking entirely. Add to this the looming discussions regarding potential flavour and packaging restrictions, and it seems that vaping is being disproportionately and irrationally undermined, considering it is one of the few industries that provides a harm and cost reduction benefit to society.

Compounding the confusion are mixed signals from the government in the form of the Prime Minister's nationwide ‘Swap to Stop’ campaign, aimed at encouraging vaping, whilst providing no definitive plan to tackle the widespread black market - an industry which is overwhelmingly responsible for the rise in youth vaping, and which stands to benefit the most from the new vape tax. The government's solution to throw more money at the problem casts further doubt on their reasoning and motivations.

Vaping is regarded as the most successful nicotine replacement therapy available, responsible for helping over 2.7m smokers in the UK successfully quit their habit.(2) The low cost of cost of owning and maintaining a vape kit is one of the biggest motivators to get smokers to make the switch. Whilst disposables are by far the most popular device among those looking to quit, you get the biggest savings with a refillable vape kit and bottles of e-liquid - and this is where the new vaping levy is going to hit hardest. The new vape tax followed a lengthy consultation process with members of the public, which seems to have completely ignored the voices of the vaping community, who are now being punished for choosing to live a healthier lifestyle.

Join us as we unpack the Tobacco and Vapes Bill and explore why vaping is being taxed and what this will mean for vapers.

Table of contents
A photo of the UK Chancellors red budget briefcase

The new vape tax will be implemented on 1st October 2026

1. Why is there a new tax on vaping?

The new vaping tax forms part of the government’s ambition to tackle youth vaping and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's vision to create a ‘smokefree generation’. It followed a consultation between the health professionals and members of the public. The new legislation introduces a ban on disposable vapes and increases the cost of e-liquids to prevent those under 18 from taking up vaping. All vaping products are already subject to a 20% rate of VAT, and the additional levy is known as a ‘sin tax’. These are applied to products like alcohol, tobacco and sugar, that are seen as potentially harmful to consumers.

Whilst the number of minors who smoke in the UK is falling, the vaping rates among minors is on the rise. According to ASH, there has been a steady increase in the number of young people vaping over the past 3 years. A recent survey in 2023, revealed that 20.5% of children aged 11-17 said they had tried vaping at least once, which was up from 15.7% the previous year. The number of regular users is much lower but did increase from 2.0% in 2021 to 3.9% in 2023.(3)

Disposable vapes are the predominant choice among school children, accounting for 69% of the most commonly used devices. In comparison, refillable and prefilled vape kits affected by the new vape duty account for only 11% and 12% of use respectively. Vape flavours have also been blamed for increasing the appeal to children, and potential flavour restrictions are also being discussed. The biggest impact of the increased cost of vaping products will be on the wallets of adult vapers who have chosen to stop smoking.

Director of Vape Superstore, Ed Swain, shared his concerns: 'The proposed ‘vape tax’ is an ill-conceived idea from a struggling Government that is looking for a vote winner. For many, vaping serves as a crucial tool in transitioning away from combustible tobacco products, offering a safer alternative. The imposition of a tax could price out individuals who rely on vaping as a harm reduction method. The current proposal would see some bottles of e-liquid double in price which will inevitably deter users from continuing their journey towards a smoke free life.'

"The current proposal would see some bottles of e-liquid double in price"

2. How much is the UK vape tax going up?

The new vape tax will be introduced on 1st October 2026, and introduces three new tax categories for vaping e-liquids based on their nicotine content. These include both nicotine-free and premixed nicotine e-liquids.

  • Bottles of 10ml zero nicotine e-liquid will increase by £1
  • A 10ml bottle containing 0.1mg to 10mg will increase by £2
  • Those who enjoy 11mg to 20mg nicotine strengths will have to pay an additional £3 per 10ml bottle.
  • Shortfill users will be taxed £1 for every 10ml of e-liquid, which means there will be a £5 increase for 50ml's and an eyewatering £10 extra for 100ml shortfills.
  • On top of that shortfill users will have to pay an additional £3 extra for their nic shots.
Image showing the £5 increase on 50ml shortfills
Image showing the £10 increase on 100ml shortfills

Those heaviest hit will be shortfill users who face an increase of £1 for every 10ml of e-liquid.

Image showing the £1 increase on 10ml nicotine free e-liquids
Image showing the £1 increase on 10ml 0mg - 10mge-liquids
Image showing the £1 increase on 10ml 11mg-20mg e-liquids
Image showing the £1 increase on 10ml 18mg nic shot e-liquids

Additionally, nic shots will also increase by £3 a bottle, effectively doubling the cost for shortfill users who add nicotine.

3. How much will e-liquid cost in 2026?

Size & Strength

Current Average Cost (per bottle)

Cost of E-Liquid in 2026 (per bottle)

10ml: Nicotine Free

£3

£4

10ml: 0.1mg - 10.9mg

£3

£5

10ml: 11mg-20mg

£3

£6

50ml Shortfill

£13

£18

100ml Shortfill

£15

£25

Prefilled Pods (2 Pack)

£6

£7

A positive takeaway is the government's increase of the tax on tobacco by £2 per 100 cigarettes, they say this is to ensure that the cost of vaping remains as a financial incentive. Following the tax hike, vaping will still be more than three times cheaper than smoking.

4. Expectations from the UK vape tax increase

The additional duty on vaping products is set to generate £445 million in revenue by 2028/9, which the government claims will be invested in the NHS and Trading Standards to help combat the black market. The government hopes that the increase in the cost of vape products will reduce their appeal to teenagers who lack disposable income and, in conjunction with the disposable vapes ban, the expectation is that rates of underage vaping will decrease.

Concerns from the vaping industry centre around the financial impact that will be felt right through the entire supply chain from the manufacturer to the consumer. Compounding this issue is the failure of the Tobacco and Vapes Bill to deliver any constructive measures to curb the proliferation of black market vape goods which are guaranteed to blossom as consumers seek out cheaper alternatives, this could potentially mean further loss of earnings for vaping wholesalers and retailers.

A photo of a highstreet American Candy store

"The Government needs to get a handle on what the real issues are... this is the result of a lack of funding provided to enforce the illicit sale and distribution of illegal products. To suggest that the money earned from this tax will be used to enforce such rogue sellers is disingenuous."

5. Will the Tax on Vapes Work?

The argument that the vaping duty will act as a deterrent ignores a vital point; the distinction as the where children are getting their vapes from. There is a long overdue and pressing need to address cornershop vendors involved in the black market trade of vapes since this is the primary source for most devices obtained by minors. A 2023 survey by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) revealed that 48% of children obtained their first vape product from a shop.(4) Cornershops and so-called 'American Candy Stores' litter the high street, unscrupulously selling unregistered vape products often with no qualms as to who they are selling to.

Director of Vape Superstore, Ed Swain had this to say, 'The Government needs to get a handle on what the real issues are. The disposable ban always felt inevitable, but this is the result of a lack of funding provided to enforce the illicit sale and distribution of illegal products. To suggest that the money earned from this tax will be used to enforce such rogue sellers is disingenuous. The tax is a statement piece of legislation which will only serve to push back the public health progress made through vaping.'

The UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) has been calling for a Vape Industry Licensing Scheme to be implemented to combat the surge of illicit market vaping products. It would be self funded and would pave the way for underground vendors to be traced and stopped from selling illegal vape products and introduce much higher penalties of up to £10,000 for underage selling. Enforcement agencies cannot currently get a grip on the sale of illicit vapes and the only people affected by the price increase will be adult vapers and the entire legitimate vaping supply chain.(5)

The increase in the costs of e-liquid could see the average vaper spending an additional £20 - £30 a month on vaping. Further costs to people's monthly spending risk driving adult vapers away from legitimate sources and straight into the hands of an eager black market.

"The tax is a statement piece of legislation which will only serve to push back the public health progress made through vaping."

6. How will the vaping tax increase affect the economy?

The UK vaping market not only supports the economy but also contributes to easing the burden on health services by reducing the number of smokers and therefore, the amount of smoking-related illnesses. In 2023 the vaping industry generated £2.8bn in total revenue, it provides almost 18,000 full-time jobs and is one of the rare industries contributing to economic value and harm reduction - not something every retail sector can say. Thanks to the vaping industry the NHS saved over £300m in 2019, on top of £310m in tax in 2021.(6)

The proposed tax would hit consumer budgets and businesses, many of whom may struggle to find the resources to pay for the new increase in import costs. The UK vape tax increase is an excise tax, which means that it begins at the manufacturer level. This could have a severe impact on smaller vape retailers, who may be at risk of going out of business if they lack the funds necessary to pay for the increased wholesale costs. Higher costs could affect pay, lead to downsizing and potential job losses in the sector and the forced closure of smaller enterprises unable to take the financial hit. In short, small vape shops may be priced out of business by the tax increase on e-liquids. This may incentivise them to source e-liquids from the black market.

7. Conclusion

Making vaping more expensive will have a negative impact on an industry that provides thousands of jobs and gives adult smokers a much healthier alternative that is backed by the government and the NHS. It also fails to properly address the proliferation of black market products, which serve as the primary source for youths who vape. A higher tax on vape liquids risks reducing the appeal of vaping to adults, shying smokers away from making the switch and increasing the burden on health services, although the government says that it has offset this negative factor with a one-off increase in tobacco duty. Vaping remains cheaper than to smoking, however, existing vapers could see their costs go up by more than a third.

Promises of using the additional revenue generated to fund Trading Standards feel vague and seem to lack any concrete planning and action such as an effective Vape Industry Licensing Scheme, which the legitimate vaping industry has been pushing for for years and would make monitoring and enforcement a lot more effective.


Sources

(1) Is vaping harmful? - cancerresearchuk.org

(2) Vaping to quit smoking - nhs.co.uk

(3,4) Use of e-cigarettes (vapes) among young people in Great Britain - ash.org.uk

(5) Vape Industry Lisencing Scheme - ukvia.co.uk

(6) Cebr Report - ukvia.co.uk

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