The UK’s Ongoing Public Consultation on Phasing Out Smoking And Teen Vaping

The future of the UK's possible smoke-free success may depend on the ongoing consultation.

The UK government has already received over 12,000 responses in its public consultation on plans to create a smoke-free generation and tackle teen vaping. The proposed historic law aims to prohibit the sale of cigarettes to children aged 14 and under in England, by making it illegal for individuals born on or after January 1, 2009, to purchase tobacco products.

An astounding £70 million would be allocated to support local stop smoking services across the country. This funding, is more than double the current amount, and would provide one-to-one and group stop smoking sessions, accurate information, advice, and access to quit aids.

The initiative aligns with the government’s goal of phasing out smoking, while addressing rising concerns about the increased popularity of vaping among children. Open until December 6th, the consultation seeks public input on plans to reduce the appeal and availability of vapes to children, including proposals for on-the-spot fines for underage tobacco and vape sales. While the government’s guidance to local authorities emphasizes utilizing the funding to enhance capacity, support effective interventions, and collaborate with existing schemes like Swap to Stop, which offers a million smokers a free vaping starter kit.

The move aligns with the King’s Speech announcement on the introduction of the Tobacco and Vapes Bill and reflects the government’s commitment to creating a smoke-free generation. Cancer Research UK, Asthma + Lung UK, and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) expressed support for the legislation, emphasizing the potential impact on smoking prevalence and preventing the next generation from tobacco addiction.

Why change a successful strategy?
Tobacco harm reduction experts are concerned that changing a strategy that is currently working would be detrimental to public health. The World Vapers’ Alliance (WVA) has recently highlighted the effectivity of the UK’s “Swap-to-Stop” initiative as a commitment to reducing smoking rates by promoting safer alternatives. While recent data from the Office for National Statistics indicates the UK’s success, with smoking rates declining twice as fast as the EU’s.

To this effect, the WVA expressed concern that Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s proposed generational smoking ban could undermine these achievements and contradict successful UK strategies. The WVA emphasized the importance of preserving successful approaches to smoking reduction. The alliance opposes the ban, citing past experiences where such measures led to unintended consequences, such as increased smoking rates and the growth of black markets.

Bans lead to the growth of blackmarkets
In fact research has consistently shown that imposing bans, particularly on products like tobacco or vapes, often results in the growth of black markets. Prohibitions create a void in legal channels, compelling consumers to seek banned goods through illicit means. The allure of obtaining products that are otherwise restricted can drive the expansion of underground markets, feeding illegal trade and diminishing the intended impact of regulatory measures.

This phenomenon has been observed globally, with historical instances of alcohol prohibition in the United States leading to bootlegging and the emergence of illegal speakeasies. Similarly, bans on vapes and other nicotine products, have demonstrated a parallel trend, with consumers turning to unauthorized sources, risking public health, and prompting concerns about product safety and quality in unregulated markets.