The Prime Minister has set out plans to build a better and brighter future for children.
This includes the introduction of a new law to stop children who turn 15 this year or younger from ever legally being sold cigarettes and banning disposable vapes.
This follows a consultation which received nearly 28,000 responses, including from the public, the retail sector, clinicians and medical professionals, schools, local authorities, public health stakeholders, academic experts, employers, and trade associations.
The consultation response can be viewed here. https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/creating-a-smokefree-generation-and-tackling-youth-vaping
Here’s what you need to know.
What are the key measures you've announced?
Firstly, we will create the first smoke-free generation so children turning 15 this year or younger will never be legally sold tobacco. The age of sale will be raised by one year each year to prevent future generations from ever taking up smoking, as there is no safe age to smoke.
On 28 January, we announced plans to go further to tackle youth vaping by banning disposable vapes.
To reduce the appeal of vapes to children, we also announced that new powers will be introduced to restrict vape flavours and packaging. The powers will also allow government to change how vapes are displayed in shops.
To crack down on underage sales, the government will also bring in quicker and simpler £100 fixed penalty fines for shops in England and Wales which sell vapes illegally to children. Trading standards officers will be empowered to act ‘on the spot’ to tackle underage tobacco and vape sales. This builds on a maximum £2,500 fine that local authorities can already impose.
Vaping alternatives - such as nicotine pouches - will also be outlawed for children who are increasingly turning to these highly addictive substitutes.
Why are disposable vapes an issue?
Being cheap and easy to use, disposable vapes are also the vape of choice for children with 69% of current vapers aged 11 to 17 in Great Britain using disposable vapes (up from 7.7% in 2021).
There are serious environmental concerns over disposable vapes. Over 5 million disposable vapes are either littered or thrown away in general waste every week. This has quadrupled in the last year.
That is why we the UK Government, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government intend to introduce legislation to implement a ban on the sale and supply of disposable vapes. The UK Government will also work with the devolved administrations to explore an import ban.
When will the disposable vape ban come into effect?
England, Scotland and Wales intend to bring in legislation as soon as possible. Any legislation taken forward will allow for an implementation period of at least six months, which takes into consideration concerns that businesses will require time to adapt.
What steps are being taken to address the potential emergence of a black market for disposable vapes?
We will support retailers to implement the new requirements by increasing funding for enforcement – government has announced £30 million extra funding per year for enforcement agencies including HMRC, Trading Standards and Border Force, to tackle the illicit market and underage sales.
Who is going to enforce this ban?
Trading Standards will lead on enforcing the ban within their local area.
It is expected that enforcement authorities would apply civil sanctions in the first instance and a failure to comply may result in authorities prosecuting for a criminal offence subject to a fine only after a failure to comply with a civil sanction.
Are you not worried that a ban on disposable vapes will turn adults towards smoking?
No. Adults who vape responsibly will be able to continue to do so.
We are not banning vapes as a whole, just disposable vapes – given the huge impact they have on the environment. Banning disposables will also prevent young people from accessing them.
Adult vapers will still be able to access refillable and reusable vapes.
We recognise the important part vapes can play in helping people quit smoking. As part of the government’s Swap to Stop scheme, almost one in five of all adult smokers in England will have access to a reusable vape kit alongside behavioural support to help them quit the habit and improve health outcomes.
What is the danger of children using vapes?
Children should never vape. The number of children using vapes has tripled in the last three years, and the bulk of that increase has been driven by disposables. The evidence is clear that vapes should not be used by, or targeted at, kids – due to the risk and unknown harms involved. That is why the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has said disposable vapes should be banned.
The active ingredient in most vapes is nicotine, which when inhaled, is a highly addictive drug. The addictive nature of nicotine means that a user can become dependent on vapes, especially if they use them regularly.
We have a duty to protect children from these potential harms, which is why we will be banning disposable vapes and bringing forward measures in the Bill to restrict vape flavours, displays and packaging. Reusable and refillable vapes will continue to play a valuable role in helping adults to stop smoking.
What about vape displays in shops, packaging and flavours?
Vapes have become highly appealing products for children because of the wide range of flavours, bright colours, use of cartoons and highly visible points of display in shops. Our new legislation will introduce powers to regulate the display of vapes, packaging and flavours.
The purpose of addressing these issues is to prevent the marketing of vaping to children.
Before using these powers, we will be undertaking a further consultation on the specific measures.
When will this come into force?
On the disposable vapes ban – the date from which it applies will be set out in a statutory instrument (under powers conferred through the Environmental Protections Act) which we will bring forward as soon as possible this year, with the legislation coming into effect soon after.
Separately, new powers on flavours, placement and packaging will be contained within a new legislation. Government will then consult on how these new powers are applied through regulation.
When will the smokefree generation come into force?
We will set out legislation in due course and from January 1 2027, anyone aged 15 or under (born on or after 1 January 2009) will never be able to legally sold tobacco.
New Zealand reversed their decision to introduce a smokefree generation. Should we do the same in the UK?
New Zealand’s policy was not the same as the UK and their policy went much further than ours.
Central to New Zealand’s plans was a licensing scheme, which would limit the number of retailers able to sell tobacco (from 6,000 to 600), and “denicotinisation”, which would limit the amount of nicotine in consumer products.
These measures would have had huge implications for current smokers, limiting their ability to access their preferred products, and on the ability of retailers to sell tobacco products.
Our plans will not punish those who smoke, or retailers who stock tobacco products.
Our position remains unchanged. This remains critically important as smoking is the single biggest entirely preventable cause of ill-health, disability and death in the UK – causing around 1 in 4 cancer deaths and 80,000 deaths in the UK every year.
This is an important long-term decision and step to deliver a smoke-free generation. There is no safe age to smoke, and so it is logical to progressively raise the age of sale.
Facts on smoking
- Smoking is the single biggest entirely preventable cause of ill-health, disability and death. It leads to 80,000 deaths a year in the UK, and is responsible for 1 in 4 cancer deaths, and over 70% of lung cancer cases. Smokers lose an average of ten years of life expectancy.
- Consequently, smoking puts a huge burden on the NHS - almost every minute of every day someone is admitted to hospital with a smoking-related disease and over 100 GP appointments every hour are due to smoking.
- It also costs the economy and wider society £17 billion a year – this is equivalent to 6.9p in every £1 of income tax received, and equivalent to the annual salaries of over half a million nurses, 390,000 GPs, 400,000 police officers, or 400 million GP appointments.
- Most smokers know the risks of smoking, want to quit but are unable to due to the addictive nature of tobacco. 4 in 5 smokers start before the age of 20 and are then addicted for life.
- Vaping is less harmful than smoking and can play a role in helping adult smokers to quit. But our message is clear, if you don’t smoke, don’t vape – and children should never vape. Youth vaping has tripled in the last three years, and 1 in 5 children have tried vaping.
- Disposable vapes are clearly linked to the rise of vaping in children. They are cheap and easy to use, with 69% of current vapers aged 11 to 17 in Great Britain using them. They are also incredibly harmful to the environment. 5 million disposable vapes are either littered or thrown away in general waste every week. This has quadrupled in the last year.