Consultation launched into tobacco and vaping crackdown as Sunak pledges 'smoke-free generation'

By John Mercury October 12, 2023

Plans to crack down on teen vaping and create a “smoke-free generation” are due to be laid out in a government consultation published today. 

Among the proposals that will be consulted on include making it an offence for anyone born on or after 1 January 2009 to be sold tobacco products and restricting the flavours and appearance of vapes to make them less attractive to children.

Restricting sales of disposable vapes and possibly increasing their price will also be considered, as will the introduction of new powers for councils to hand out on-the-spot fines to those who are selling vapes to under-18s.

It is estimated that five million disposable vapes are discarded every week in the UK.

The government wants any changes to not hamper efforts to encourage adult smokers to switch from smoking to vapes.

The UK-wide consultation, which is open for eight weeks, comes just days after Rishi Sunak pledged to raise the legal age for buying cigarettes in England by one year every year in his speech to Tory Party conference in Manchester.

Smoking causes around one in four cancer deaths and 64,000 in England alone, costing the economy and wider society £17bn each year.

As well as the crackdown on smoking, ministers are also concerned by the rise in vaping among children.

Recent figures from Action on Smoking and Health show the number of children using vapes in the past three years has tripled, with 20.5% of children aged between 11 and 17 having tried vaping in 2023.

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There are warnings that vaping is a ‘ticking time bomb’ among children.

Selling vapes to children is already illegal, but recent statistics show that cheap, colourful and sweet-flavoured vapes are targeted at youngsters.

Mr Sunak said he was “wasting no time to deliver on that promise” of creating a smoke-free generation.

England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said that while vaping was less dangerous than smoking, it “still has risks and can cause addiction”.

“Vaping can be useful for smokers to quit, but should not be marketed to non-smokers and marketing them to children is utterly unacceptable,” he said.

In his conference speech, the prime minister said the proposed legislation would mean a “14-year-old today will never legally be sold a cigarette and that they and their generation can grow up smoke-free”.

He said the changes will be subject to a vote in parliament but this will be a free vote, as was the ban on smoking in public places and raising the smoking age to 18.

Read more:
How would a smoking ban work?
Children ‘so addicted to vapes they can’t last lesson without one’

Ministers have faced repeated calls to ban vapes to help protect children and reduce the significant environmental impact of the single-use products.

The government set out an ambition in 2019 for England to be smoke free by 2030.

It commissioned a review, published last June and led by Dr Javed Khan, which made a series of recommendations, including increasing the legal age for buying tobacco.

He recommended that the age of sale should increase from 18, by one year every year, until no-one can buy a tobacco product.

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