16th April 2024

Our response to the Tobacco and Vapes Bill

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MPs will vote today (16th April 2024) on the Tobacco and Vapes Bill, a new legislation which would make it an offence to sell tobacco products to anyone born after 1 January 2009 – children aged 15 or younger today.

Smoking itself would not be criminalised and anyone who can legally buy tobacco today will never be prevented from doing so in the future by the legislation. If passed, the Bill will progress to the next stage, with the hope of bringing the UK closer to creating the first smoke-free generation. 

Paula Chadwick is the chief executive of Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. She shares the charity’s thoughts on the Bill.

“We fully support any measures that help reduce the risk of people getting lung cancer and so are fully behind the Government’s proposed Tobacco and Vapes Bill. But this doesn’t mean we are without questions or concerns.

“Smoking remains the biggest cause of lung cancer, so in order to reduce the number of people getting diagnosed, we must find ways to help them quit – and prevent them from taking up the habit in the first place. 80% of people who start smoking do so before the age of 20 and most remain addicted for the rest of their lives despite trying to have quit.

“The Tobacco and Vapes Bill would ensure anyone turning 15 from this year would be banned from buying cigarettes. It also aims to make vapes less appealing to children by restricting flavours, introduce plain packaging and change how vapes are displayed in shops.

“On paper, this is a positive step towards a smoke-free generation. However, we can’t help but ask… it is really that simple?!

The sceptic in me can’t help but wonder if this Bill could in fact create greater demand for these damaging products. It’s reverse-psychology 101; tell someone they can’t have something, and it just makes them want it more – even if they didn’t want it in the first place! Could this drive young people towards illicit and unregulated tobacco?

“We also remain unsure how the Government intends for this to be policed. We understand, under the plans, trading standards officers would get new powers to issue on-the-spot £100 fines to shops selling tobacco or vapes to children, with all the money raised going towards further enforcement.

“Again, simple on paper, but does this translate into reality given the numbers involved?

For us, the key to a smokefree generation is education, and in particular education about vaping. The figures around young people and vapes is staggering, and frightening. Number having tripled in the last three years, with one in five children having tried vaping – despite it already being illegal for under 18s, proof that age limits are far from foolproof.

“Restrictions alone are not enough. If we want to protect the next generation from smoking and vaping, we must provide young people with the right information – and in the right way – to allow them to make a conscious and informed choice.

“Young people have to make the decision that they don’t to want to smoke or vape, and they need to do it of their own free will. That is then we will finally start to win the war against tobacco.”