Sunak’s Tobacco and Vapes Bill Banned Before Becoming Law Because of July 4th Election

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Vape Recycling bin at West Sussex Recycling Depot with big red sign vapes and E-cigarettes, photo by A.Howse
Vape Recycling bin at West Sussex Recycling Depot with big red sign vapes and E-cigarettes, photo by A.Howse

The Prime Minister stood in front of Number 10 Downing Street on Wednesday night in the pouring rain to announce a summer election. This was an unexpected shock to many of his political party. Rishi Sunak remained focused and determined to outline his key objectives for the general public who will be voting on July 4th this year.

This was despite demonstrators loudly playing Labour’s 1997 election anthem ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ which is a British pop song by D:Ream that tunefully competed with Sunak’s eloquent, detailed and important speech. Rishi Sunak spoke about the Conservatives achievements so far. These included the furlough scheme during the covid pandemic, supporting Ukraine, increasing NHS spending and improving childcare and education.

However, Sunak’s summer election announcement is now dubbed jokingly ‘Things will only get wetter’ by the Conservative party’s political opponents.

One of Rishi Sunak’s important goals is to complete the law that prevented future generations from ever taking up smoking, a key healthcare mission to complete for the Conservative government, under the current health-conscious Prime Minister’s leadership.

Rishi Sunak’s Tobacco and Vapes Bill Clearly Passes Through Commons

The UK’s smokefree future is clearer after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Tobacco and Vapes Bill passed through the Commons with a strong majority in favour last month.

What is the Tobacco and Vapes Bill?

On Saturday 20th April 2024 the Tobacco and Vapes Bill was approved by Members of Parliament in the House of Commons after a huge majority voted in favour of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s plan to prevent a new generation (and future generations) of United Kingdom citizens from ever taking up smoking. (8)

Vape flavours will also be legally restricted and packaging and displays will avoid appealing to children. Vapes will not be able to be sold near sweets in shops. New rules for UK based retailers will control how vapes can be displayed for ensuring only adults can purchase this merchandise. (1)

‘On the spot’ fines will be introduced to clamp down on sales of vapes and tobacco to children under 18 years old. Enforcement officers will be able to issue £100 fines immediately if they find underage sales of tobacco and vaping products. Local authorities can already issue a maximum £2500 fine and this legislation will now apply to the new age restriction.

It will be illegal to give free samples of vapes to those under 18 years of age. (1)

Smoking itself not criminalised. Anyone who can legally buy tobacco now is not prevented from doing so in the future.

£70 million of funding has already been announced by the UK government to enable local ‘stop smoking services’ which include swapping to vaping and behavioural support to quit the habit. (1)

£5 million budget has been approved for new national campaigns to explain the legal changes, the benefits of quitting smoking and the healthcare support that is available to people wanting to change to a healthier lifestyle. (2)

Who will be affected by the Tobacco and Vapes Bill and when does it start?

The new Tobacco and Vapes Bill, once approved by the House of Lords, will be introduced into law in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in June 2024 if everything proceeds as expected. This will mean children turning 15 years of age this year or younger will never legally be able to be sold tobacco. Once fully approved by Westminster anyone born after 1 January 2009 will never legally be able to buy tobacco products. (1)

The smoking bill was originally introduced to parliament on Wednesday 20th March and was approved by the House of Commons this week, with a large majority in favour of introducing the new law. There is wide support for the new measures by both Conservatives and Labour members of parliament. (1)

The proportion of young people using disposable vapes has increased nine times in the last 2 years. The government is committed to banning the sale and supply of disposable vapes from April 2025 under separate environmental legislation. (1)

How will Tobacco and Vapes Bill work?

Andrew Opie is Director of Food and Sustainability at the British Retail Consortium. The British Retail Consortium is supporting retailers to implement the new age of sale legislation and regulations regarding the selling of vapes all across the nation and in a timely manner. (1)

Andrew Opie explained that “It is important that the legislation operates in the same way across the UK as this will help ensure clarity and consistency for customers.” (1)

The government proposes that (retailer’s tobacco) display statements will need to be changed and required to read “it is illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born on or after 1 January 2009”. (2)

The government has launched new educational resources for teachers to educate secondary school children about the dangers of smoking and vaping. (4)

The UK government’s ‘Swap to Stop’ scheme also includes “financial incentives for pregnant smokers to quit.” The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines recommend the use of vouchers of up to £400 for pregnant women quitting smoking whilst following a programme that includes behavioural support services.  (2)

Stop Smoking Services (SSS) are proving a cost-effective way of supporting smokers to quit band have shown to double a person’s chances of giving up the habit. In addition to offering specific stop smoking products and medicine, SSS are most effective when combined with behavioural support services. (2)

There is wide support for the Tobacco and Vapes Bill

“The tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced…All forms of tobacco are harmful, and there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco.” World Health Organisation (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 causes harm across the life course. This includes stillbirth, asthma, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, 15 different types of cancer, stroke and dementia. “Chris Witty, Chief Medical Officer for England (1)

“Everyday 350 young adults between the ages of 18 to 25 start smoking regularly, risking a lifetime of addiction, disease, disability and premature death.” The Tobacco and Vapes Bill “sets a course to the extinction of smoking in the UK.” Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health (1)

“Reducing the impact of passive smoking on pregnant women and children will be a key outcome too.” Dr Camilla Kingdon, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (1)

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also wants to “tackle the alarming rise in youth vaping” by introducing the Tobacco and Vapes Bill which includes new strict legislation regarding the sale of vapes to minors. (1)

Smokefree Future or Smoking Apartheid?

There are some voices of opposition to the law changes expected in the Tobacco and Vapes Bill this spring.

Freedom is a core part of the values of any democracy. Some people in the UK oppose the idea of the state restricting what they consider to be personal lifestyle choices. Many citizens were shocked at the loss of freedom to meet or to travel during the legal lockdowns that were introduced because of the recent health pandemic. Further strengthening smoking and vaping laws could be seen as another example of government legal restrictions that are not always appropriate or practical when enforced in practice in the community.

Former Prime Minister Liz Truss said: “A Conservative government should not be seeking to extend the nanny state. It only gives succour to those who wish to curtail freedom.” (6) Objectors including Member of Parliament for South West Norfolk Liz Truss have accused the policy of being “profoundly unconservative”. (7)

The Secretary of State for Business and Trade Kemi Badenoch voted against the bill asserting that “the burden of enforcement would fall on private businesses, and that the bill undermined the principle of equality.” According to the Guardian Kemi Badenoch was concerned that legally competent adults born a day apart would be treated differently in terms of their permanent rights. (7)

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson was reported in the Guardian as saying the plan was “nuts”. The BBC said Johnson “has previously criticised the plans as “barmy,” arguing the 2009 cut-off will lead to a “smoking apartheid,” with some adults allowed to carry on buying cigarettes and others not.” (6) (7)

Smokers’ rights group Forest, which is funded by the tobacco industry, said: “No-one wants children to smoke, but the idea that government should take away people’s freedom to choose long after they have grown up is absurd.” (6) The Guardian have reported that Forest have accused the government from being “ageist” as it would mean similar aged adults would have different rights when it came to smoking.

Some citizens may be concerned about the government banning anything that may possibly be abused. Many other forms of life’s more enjoyable treats are sensibly enjoyed by most adults in moderation. People may be worried that fun activities may be further restricted. Luxury and celebratory delights and delicacy’s such as fireworks, fine wine or high sugar foods could become the next target for legal banning in the future. The former cabinet minister Sir Simon Clarke said: “An enforcement nightmare and a slippery slope – alcohol next?” (7)

The Guardian have reported that international tobacco companies have been lobbying politicians and may attempt to slow down the process through the House of Lords. It has been suggested in the British press that tobacco manufacturers may encourage additional exemptions to be written into the Tobacco and Vapes Bill (for example cigars) or the tobacco product suppliers could propose increased legislation through more complicated licensing agreements, to try and slow down, complicate and ultimately frustrate the progression of the Tobacco and Vapes Bill through to becoming law throughout the United Kingdom this year. (8)

Smokefree Future: can we lead the way in the UK in order to improve world health standards?

The final vote in the Lords was expected to take place in June of this year. It is an opportunity for the UK to take a lead in the challenge of preventing this and future generations from becoming addicted to nicotine and tobacco products and all the negative aspects that this can bring to an adult’s life and their families in the long term.

We have former smokers in the HotEnough.com team and we understand personally the challenges of breaking the cycle of nicotine cravings. We know how hard and equally how important this is to live a healthy adult lifestyle that is free of addiction and the associated financial costs of this expensive habit.

We hope that this Tobacco and Vapes Bill moves smoothly through the process to become law as soon as possible. It may not be an absolutely perfect way to stop our young people from being exposed to this harmful toxic addiction. It is the best chance that we have to stop the cycle of this dangerous activity from blighting the lives of another generation and their loved ones.

The future benefits to our society will be massive and we can show global healthcare leadership with this policy. This Tobacco and Vapes Bill combined with a comprehensive anti-smoking and vaping schools’ education programme will ensure that we have an opportunity to demonstrate how we can be, as a nation, the responsible, healthy, environmentally friendly and caring change we want to see in the world.

It has become clear today that the Tobacco and Vapes Bill will not now be able to be included in the current legislation being rushed through to completion before the shutting down of Parliament. The shut down is part of the political process in the run up to the election which will know see all the candidates campaigning in their communities to be voted into the next Parliament in Westminster.

The BBC reported that Rishi Sunak had declared he was “disappointed” and supporters of the latest bill to prevent more people in the UK becoming ill and dying prematurely from smoking will all be hoping that the Tobacco and Vapes Bill will be reintroduced and integrated into UK law in the very near future, under the next governments leadership. (11)

(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 MP, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Gov.UK

(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 for England, Steve Barclay MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Gov.UK

(3) ‘Public support for government action on tobacco in Great Britain’ Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) website, August 2023 ‘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, The Guardian, 16 April 2024 Chris Whitty urges MPs to ignore lobbying and pass smoking ban bill’ Andrew Gregory and Ben Quinn, The Guardian

(9) ‘Things can only get wetter: D:Ream song drowns out Sunak’s damp election announcement’ Sammy Gecsoyler, The Guardian, 22 May 2024 ‘Things can only get wetter: D:Ream song drowns out Sunak’s damp election announcement’ Sammy Gecsoyler, The Guardian

(10) Rishi Sunak Announces 4 July general election’ Nadia Ragozhina, BBC News Rishi Sunak Announces 4 July general election’ Nadia Ragozhina

(11) ‘Rishi Sunak disappointed smoking ban will not become law’ Chas Geiger, Politics reporter, BBC News, 24 May 2024 ‘Rishi Sunak disappointed smoking ban will not become law’ Chas Geiger, BBC News