Smoking and Vaping: Hot Topic for PM Rishi Sunak’s UK Law Reforms

26
Tobacco and vaping products supermarket shop display Sussex
Tobacco and vaping products supermarket shop display Sussex

Who smokes in 2024?

Currently 12.9% of people in the UK (or 6.4 million) smoke. Smoking is a third of its height in 1974 and has fallen by more than a third in the last decade. Raising the minimum age of sale for cigarettes and other smoking related products to 18 years of age has significantly reduced the prevalence of smoking in young people. (2)

Smoking rates in older teens remain high – over 12% of 16- to 17-year-olds smoke in England and over 30% of under 18 pregnant mother(s) smoke. (5)

Youth vaping is a global issue with 1 in 10 middle and high school students in the USA using vapes regularly. Two-fold or greater increases have been found in Australia, Italy, Germany and France.

2021 showed a recent doubling of regular vape use (at least once a week) among young people in England from 2% in 2018 to 4% in 2021. In 2020 menthol cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco were banned and outlawed in Great Britain as international evidence showed that many young people start smoking by using menthol cigarettes. (2)

The Tobacco and Vapes Bill could make UK healthier and wealthier

Those politicians wishing to introduce the Tobacco and Vapes Bill agree that: smoking kills around 80,000 people in the UK every year and causes 1 in 4 cancer-related deaths as well as disability and ill health. Smoking is the single biggest preventable killer. (1) (5)

There is no other consumer product available to the public that kills two-thirds of its users. If new legislation is not introduced nearly half a million more people will die from smoking by 2030 (2)

Raising the age of the sale of tobacco products has strong public backing. Nothing would have a bigger impact on reducing the number of preventable deaths than ending smoking.” Dr Ian Walker, Cancer Research UK’s Executive Director of Policy (1)

Smoking and Vaping: Why prevention is better than cure

There is no safe age to smoke. 4 in 5 smokers start smoking before the age of 20 years old and are then addicted (to nicotine) for the rest of their lives. (1)

Three-quarters of current smokers would never have started if they had the choice again and on average it takes around 30 attempts to succeed in quitting smoking for good. (2)

Smoking is one of the most significant and preventable drivers of disparities in health outcomes. This includes premature death caused by smoking related diseases. This bill means that future generations will be protected from the harmful and detrimental effects of living a lifestyle as a smoker. (1)

Those who are unemployed, on low incomes or living in areas of deprivation are far more likely to smoke than the general population. Smoking attributable mortality rates are 2.1 times higher in the most deprived local authorities in the United Kingdom than the least deprived.

Vapes contain nicotine which is harmful and addictive. The long-term health implications of vaping are not fully known yet. Withdrawal from nicotine can cause anxiety, trouble concentrating and headaches. So, the governments acknowledges that while vaping can play a role in helping adults quit the smoking habit, children should never vape. (1)

Preventing young people from taking up vaping is better for the environment

The use of disposable vaping products (sometimes referred to as single use vapes) has increased substantially in recent years. These devices are neither rechargeable nor refillable and are discarded when it runs out of charge or e-liquid. They contain plastic, copper, rubber, and a lithium battery. Some parts, like the battery, can be widely recycled, whereas other parts, such as any rubber pieces, are not easily recyclable. (2)

Treating Smoking Related Diseases are Preventable National Health Service Costs

Treating smoking related diseases creates “huge pressure” on the National Health Service and it is estimated that smoking related illness currently costs the country £17 billion a year. This figure includes an annual £14 billion loss to productivity, through smoking related lost earnings, unemployment, and early death as well as costs to the National Health Service and social care of £3 billion. (1)

Up to 75,000 General Practitioner doctor’s appointments could be attributed to smoking each month in England. Therefore, if smoking can be reduced and extinguished more time and money can be spent on provided other health services for UK residents. (2)

Is a Smokefree Future a Global Possibility?

Some countries have moved to increase the minimum age it is legal to buy tobacco products to 21. The United States of America, Sri Lanka, Uganda and Singapore all have a ban on selling tobacco products to under 21-year-old citizens and the trend is likely that this age limits may be increased further over the coming years. (2)

Mexico has wide bans of the location of smoking in public places and Portugal is aiming to be smoke free by 2040. (7)

Malaysia introduced a bill in June 2023 that would prohibit smoking for anyone born on or after 1 January 2007.

New Zealand was the first country to propose the introduction of a legal restriction on the sale of tobacco to anyone born after 1 January 2009 but the BBC reported recently that the scheme has now been scrapped.  (2) (6)

See our next article for more details of how the UK could lead the way by introducing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s new Tobacco and Vapes Bill which has been approved this week in the House of Commons and is due to become law after it has been approved by the House of Lords in June 2024.

 

(1) ‘Smokefree generation one step closer as bill introduced’ Department of Health and Social Care, Victoria Atkins MP, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Gov.UK official UK government website, 20 April 2024 ‘Smokefree generation one step closer as bill introduced’ Department of Health and Social Care, Victoria Atkins

(2) ‘Stopping from the start: our new plan to create a smokefree generation’ Professor Sir Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England, Steve Barclay MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Gov.UK official UK government website, 8 November 2023 ‘Stopping from the start: our new plan to create a smokefree generation’ Professor Sir Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer, Gov.UK

(3) ‘Public support for government action on tobacco in Great Britain’ Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) website, August 2023 (3) ‘Public support for government action on tobacco in Great Britain’ Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) website

(4) Vaping – KS3 form time activities, Public Health England, 25 April 2024 Vaping – KS3 form time activities, Public Health England

(5) ‘Creating a smokefree generation and tackling youth vaping: what you need to know’ Department of Health and Social Care Media Centre, DHSC Media Team, 15 April 2024 ‘Creating a smokefree generation and tackling youth vaping: what you need to know’ Department of Health and Social Care Media Centre

(6) ‘UK smoking ban for those born after 2009 starts journey into law’ Brian Wheeler, Political Reporter, BBC News, 20 March 2024 ‘UK smoking ban for those born after 2009 starts journey into law’ Brian Wheeler, Political Reporter, BBC News

(7) ‘What is Rishi Sunak’s anti-smoking bill and will it pass?’ Andrew Gregory and Ben Quinn, The Guardian, 16 April 2024 ‘What is Rishi Sunak’s anti-smoking bill and will it pass?’ Andrew Gregory and Ben Quinn, The Guardian

(8) ‘Chris Whitty urges MPs to ignore lobbying and pass smoking ban bill’ Andrew Gregory and Ben Quinn, 16 April 2024 ‘Chris Whitty urges MPs to ignore lobbying and pass smoking ban bill’ Andrew Gregory and Ben Quinn, The Guardian