Government announces plans for a ‘smokefree generation’

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced plans that will see the phasing out of smoking by creating a ‘smokefree generation’, preventing a whole generation from ever being able to legally purchase cigarettes in England.

Proposed new law will phase out smoking
The Government have announced plans to protect future generations from the harms of tobacco by introducing a law which will make it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born on or after 1st January 2009. This will work by effectively raising the smoking age by a year, every year, until it eventually applies to the entire population.

This historic new law aims to create the first generation of young people who have never legally had access to tobacco products, and could potentially bring an end to young people smoking as early as 2040.

Speaking on the new law, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:

No parent ever wants their child to start smoking. It is a deadly habit – killing tens of thousands of people and costing our NHS billions each year, while also being hugely detrimental to our productivity as a country. 

I want to build a better and brighter future for our children, so that’s why I want to stamp out smoking for good. These changes will mean our kids will never be able to buy a cigarette, preventing them getting hooked and protecting their health both now and in the future.

4 out of 5 smokers first started smoking before the age of 20, becoming addicted at an early age and continuing the habit for most, if not the rest of their lives. Although smoking rates in the UK continue to fall year on year, it is still the leading cause of preventable illness and death, and is responsible for around 64,000 deaths per year in England alone.

The new law would be one of the most significant health interventions in a generation, and could not only save the lives of tens of  thousands of people, but could also help to alleviate the heavy financial burden that smoking weighs on society. It is estimated that it would mean that 1.7 million fewer people smoke by the year 2075.

£30 million funding to crackdown on youth vaping
This announcement also saw the release of the analysis from the recent call for evidence on youth vaping, where the Government enlisted the help of the public to identify opportunities to reduce the access that underage people have to vaping products.

E-cigarettes are a vital smoking cessation tool for adult smokers looking to quit smoking, however recent years have seen a rise in the use of vaping products among people under the age of 18. The aim of the call for evidence was to strike a balance between preventing the uptake of youth vaping, and supporting adult smokers to quit.

The Government have revealed their intention to consult on plans to make vaping products less appealing to young people, possibly through restrictions on descriptions, packaging, and point of sale displays.

As part of the announcement, the Government revealed plans for £30 million further funding for enforcement activity, which will support agencies like trading standards, HMRC, and Border Force to tackle underage sales and the import of illicit tobacco and vaping products at the border.

One of the findings from the call to evidence is that most underage people purchase vaping products from corner shops and convenience stores, suggesting that these locations are not taking age verification as seriously as is needed. Ensuring that retailers who are willing to sell to underage people are subject to strict interventions and fines would deter them from continuing this behaviour, making it far more difficult for young people to access vaping products.

One of the suggestions we put forward when we submitted our recommendations for the call to evidence was the implementation of a vaping licensing scheme. This would require that any retailer selling vaping products would need to be licensed, and agree to strictly abide by age verification, ensuring that these products are only being sold by reputable retailers.

Will there be a ban on disposable vapes?
There has been discussion that this consultation may include restricting the sale of disposable vapes, also called single-use vapes, which have been found to be the most popular vaping product among young people. This ban is not confirmed and for the time being is predominantly speculation from the media.

An important factor to consider when it comes to disposable vapes is the role that they play in helping adult smokers to quit. A survey commissioned by the Independent British Vape Trade Association (IBVTA) found that 61% of ex-smokers who had quit within the past 2 years had used a single-use vaping product during their quit attempt.

While it is incredibly important to ensure that these products do not end up in the hands of young people, introducing strict new regulations could remove these products as a viable and accessible option for adult smokers.

Both the IBVTA and the wider vaping industry have raised the fact that better enforcement of current legislation could help crack down on underage vaping without the need for ‘knee-jerk’ regulations that could make it more difficult for adult smokers to access products which can assist their stop smoking journey.

Marcus Saxton, Chair of the IBVTA, explains:

As an industry, we recognise that youth vaping needs to be tackled and we stand-ready to work with Government and towards this and we welcome wider consultation on the industry.

Rather than the knee-jerk introduction of new regulations, existing legislation should be properly enforced, and responsible manufacturers and retailers properly supported, rather than reaching for the blunt instrument of policy measures that could have damaging consequences.

At a glance
·The Government have announced a proposed new law which will make the sale of tobacco products to those born on or after 1 January 2009 illegal, aiming to create a 'smokefree generation'

·£30 million additional funding will be provided to enforcement agencies like trading standards and Border Force to tackle underage vaping and the import of illicit tobacco and vaping products

·The Government will hold a public consultation on how best to address youth vaping while ensuring vaping products remain accessible to adult smokers