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Teaching activity

In the News Teaching Activity: Vaping and Negative Externalities (Sept 2023)

Elizabeth Veal

11th September 2023

Poor recycling of disposable vapes is creating negative environmental externalities. Have a go at this free teaching activity, which includes a downloadable worksheet and suggested answers.

The use of e-cigarettes in the UK increased in 2022. The number of daily or occasional vapers rose by 15.5% for 16-24 year olds, according to the ONS.

In this BBC article, it discusses the negative impact on the environment that vaping is causing, with five million vapes discarded every week and only 17% recycled correctly. Younger vapers, it argues, are the least likely to recycle vapes. In economics, this is an example of a negative consumption externality. It is already illegal for under 18s to buy vapes and some policymakers are now also considering a ban on disposable vapes to reduce the negative externalities.

Five million vapes thrown away each week (BBC News)

Read the article and then answer the following questions.

  1. What is a negative consumption externality?
  2. Give some examples of the negative externalities that arise from vaping.
  3. Without intervention, will there be over- or underconsumption in the market for vaping?
  4. What policies could the government use to reduce the negative externalities of vaping?

Download the worksheet and suggested answers

Elizabeth Veal

Liz has taught Economics for over 25 years, including several years as Head of Economics at leading schools.

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