Government drive to phase out smoking and tackle youth vaping attracts large response

Over 12,000 responses have been received as part of the government’s consultation on plans to create a smokefree generation and crack down on youth vaping – the most significant public health...

Over 12,000 responses have been received as part of the government’s consultation on plans to create a smokefree generation and crack down on youth vaping – the most significant public health intervention in a generation.

The Prime Minister recently announced plans to introduce a historic new law to stop children who turn 14 this year or younger from ever legally being sold cigarettes in England. He also set out the government’s concerns about the worrying rise in vaping among children and announced a public consultation on plans to reduce the appeal and availability of vapes to children.

Bolstering efforts to phase out smoking, £70 million has today been allocated by the government for local stop smoking services and support in every local authority in England. This is more than double the current funding available for these services.

Stop smoking services and support provide one-to-one and group stop smoking sessions, access to accurate information and advice, as well as easy and affordable access to quit aids like skin patches, inhalators, nasal and mouth spray, chewing gum and lozenges.

Someone quitting before turning 30 could add 10 years to their life and, if a smoker can quit smoking for 28 days, they are 5 times more likely to quit permanently. This new funding will support around 360,000 people to quit smoking.

It will be ring-fenced specifically for stop smoking services and the local allocations have been calculated to ensure local authorities with the highest smoking rates receive additional weighted funding.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:

I want to build a brighter future for our children, which means taking the necessary decisions for the long-term interests of our country.

Smoking is a deadly habit, so we are making the biggest single public health intervention in a generation to stop our kids from ever being able to buy a cigarette. This will protect their health both now and in future – saving tens of thousands of lives and saving the NHS billions of pounds.

Alongside the final funding allocations, the government has issued guidance to local authorities – in partnership with the Local Government Association.

The guidance highlights how this funding should be used to build capacity in local areas to help more people quit, link smokers to the most effective interventions and also support existing support schemes like Swap to Stop. The Swap to Stop scheme is the first of its kind in the world and offers a million smokers across England a free vaping starter kit.

Acknowledging the importance of putting the next generation first and saving lives, on 7 November 2023, His Majesty King Charles III set out plans for the government to introduce the Tobacco and Vapes Bill in this Parliamentary session.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said:

Smoking kills tens of thousands of people every single year. That’s why we’re working at pace to introduce this historic legislation which will protect the next generation, prevent our children from starting smoking and improve our nation’s health.

We’ve also announced funding allocations for every single area in England to support local stop smoking services and support, which are proven to significantly improve someone’s chances of quitting for good. The increased new investment of £70 million per year will double current funding for such services and will help save countless lives up and down the country.

Professor Sir Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England, said:

Smoking is highly addictive and causes multiple diseases including heart disease, cancers, dementia and stroke.

The response to the consultation shows people care strongly about this issue. If passed, the bill will help ensure the next generation is smoke free and the additional funding will help current smokers stop, preventing major future harm.

The live public consultation – which closes on Wednesday 6 December – also details proposals to prevent underage and illicit sales of tobacco and vapes, with plans to introduce on-the-spot fines for underage sales. The consultation is open to anyone, of any age, in the UK to share their experiences and opinions and help shape future policy on vaping and smoking.

The Health and Social Care Secretary, Steve Barclay, last week visited Salford City Council to meet local councillors, public health leaders and Trading Standards officers where he discussed work being carried out in the region to seize illicit vapes. He was also shown 2 shipping containers full of seized products.

Illicit vapes can contain unknown ingredients and higher levels of nicotine, and are often made easily available to children. Over 2 million illicit vapes were seized across England by Trading Standards from 2022 to 2023.

Earlier this year, the Prime Minister also announced £30 million to further support agencies such as local trading standards, HMRC and Border Force to take action to stop underage sales and tackle the import of illicit tobacco and vaping products at the border.

Councillor David Fothergill, chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said:

Council cessation services are vitally important in helping smokers to quit. It is good news that they are seeing additional funding which will help to transform the health outcomes of people across the country.

We believe this is a progressive piece of legislation that would undoubtedly impact on smoking prevalence, and ultimately reduce rates of smoking-related disease.

The goal of a smokefree generation no longer seems out of reach and we want to work with government and others to achieve this.

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said:

ASH congratulates the government for paving the way in the King’s Speech for a ground-breaking bill to create a smokefree generation to be introduced to Parliament imminently.

No parent, whether they smoke themselves or not, wants their children to grow up to become smokers, which is why the smokefree generation policy is so strongly supported by the public.

We will do all we can, working in lockstep with the health community, to ensure that the legislation is passed before the end of this Parliament.

Cancer Research UK’s Chief Executive, Michelle Mitchell, said:

Smoking rates fall with decisive action from leaders: that’s why we support the UK government’s commitment to changing the age of sale of tobacco announced in the King’s Speech today. We call on MPs from all parties to support the legislation.

I’ve never met anyone who wants their child to take up smoking. Cancer Research UK estimates that there are around 885,000 16 to 24 year olds smoking in the UK today. The recently announced funding can help those smoking to quit, but this proposed legislation could stop the next generation ever becoming addicted to tobacco.

Sarah Woolnough, Chief Executive at Asthma + Lung UK, said:

The bill is historic. Smoking remains the biggest cause of lung disease deaths in the UK. I’m delighted that children today may never legally be able to buy cigarettes and will therefore be protected from developing lung conditions caused by a deadly addiction to tobacco.

These smokefree plans will free future generations from the pernicious grasp of tobacco addiction, which kills 76,000 people every year. It’s also encouraging to see more than 12,000 responses submitted by the public on the government’s proposal for a smokefree generation, making it clear the public care strongly about this issue. And with a recent YouGov survey showing 71% of people support this bill, there is clearly public backing to create a better and brighter future for our children.

The government’s approach and commitment to creating the first smokefree generation is extremely welcome, but now it must give this bill enough time to be passed before the next general election. With two-thirds of smokers saying they started before 18, many of our children face a lifetime trapped in an expensive and deadly addiction if this cycle isn’t broken.

Proposals being consulted on include:

  • making it an offence for anyone born on or after 1 January 2009 to be sold tobacco products
  • restricting the flavours and descriptions of vapes so that vape flavours are no longer targeted at children – we want to ensure this is done in a way that continues to support adult smokers to switch to vapes
  • regulating point-of-sale displays in retail outlets so that vapes are kept out of sight from children and away from products that appeal to them, such as sweets
  • considering restricting the sale of disposable vapes, which are clearly linked to the rise in vaping in children. These products are not only attractive to children but also incredibly harmful to the environment
  • regulating vape packaging and product presentation, ensuring that neither the device nor its packaging is targeted to children
  • considering restricting the sale of disposable vapes, which are clearly linked to the rise in vaping in children. These products are not only attractive to children but also incredibly harmful to the environment
  • exploring further restrictions for non-nicotine vapes and other nicotine consumer products such as nicotine pouches
  • exploring whether increasing the price of vapes will reduce the number of young people using them
  • introducing new powers for local authorities to issue on-the-spot fines (fixed penalty notices) to enforce age-of-sale legislation of tobacco products and vapes
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