Tobacco and Vapes Bill will create “positive impact” for young people and future generations

2024 will go down in history as the year that heralded the beginning of the country’s first Smokefree Generation, thanks to historic new legislation that has been brought to Parliament.

The Tobacco and Vapes Bill, which was laid before the House of Commons on 20th March 2024, raises the age of sale for all tobacco products one year every year from 2027 onwards. This means that tobacco can never be legally sold to anyone born on or after 1st January 2009.

The Bill will also allow local Council officers to issue £100 on the spot fines to retailers that sell tobacco and vapes to those who are underage. This is in addition to the maximum £2,500 fine, which local authorities can impose on shops and other traders. It will also be illegal to give out free samples of vapes to under-18s.

The impact of this is significant, as analysis for Action on Smoking Health (ASH) by UCL researchers suggests that approximately 127,500 young adults aged between 18 and 25 start smoking regularly each year in the UK.

Over 5.3 million adults in England are smokers, and the harm caused by smoking is the largest preventable cause of death in England, estimated to account for 64,000 deaths annually. Two in three smokers will die because of long-term smoking, with one in four hospital beds in the country currently being occupied by a smoker.

Research shows that 83 per cent of smokers start before they are 20 years old, and that the earlier someone starts, the more likely they are to smoke in later years. It has also been found that teenagers are nearly three times more likely to smoke if their caregivers or friends do.

Dr Sarah McNulty, Director of Public Health for Knowsley, and Lead Director for Smokefree Cheshire and Merseyside, said:

“I am very happy to see this vital legislation being brought to Parliament for its First Reading, which when made into law, will improve the health and wellbeing of our residents and usher in the very first Smokefree Generation. We know that smoking is one of the biggest causes of death and ill-health in this country, and it is very encouraging to see this national commitment to reducing the harm that tobacco causes.”

Georgina Weston, Youth Participation Worker at Merseyside Youth Association, Laura Whiteside, member of Knowsley Youth Cabinet, and Andrea Crossfield MBE, Strategic Lead for Smokefree Cheshire and Merseyside in the Champs Support Team, attending the All-Party Parliamentary Group meeting on smoking in the House of Commons on national No Smoking Day

As well as support from Cheshire and Merseyside’s health and care system, young people in the subregion also support the Bill. Laura Whiteside, a 17-year-old from Kirkby in Knowsley and member of the Knowsley Youth Cabinet, attended an All-Party Parliamentary Group meeting on smoking in the House of Commons on national No Smoking Day to have her say about the legislation. The event was attended by Andrea Leadsom MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department of Health and Social Care, who reinforced her support and determination to see this Bill pass through the Parliamentary process.

Speaking about her experience of smoking and the importance of this legislation, Laura said:

“As a young person who was affected by smoking from a very young age, I feel this new legislation to create a Smokefree Generation will have a very positive impact for young people now and for future generations.

“I started smoking at the age of 15 because it was easily accessible to me and socially accepted in my family, I hope that this new legislation will put an end to that and help people who were in my situation.

“I have seen people suffer health conditions from smoking, so it means a lot to me that thanks to this Bill, fewer people will go through that at any age.

“It’s amazing that the Government is focusing on this, as it has been such a problem is society for a very long time, and continues to be, due to the number of young people who still think it’s ok to start smoking and using vapes.”

The introduction of this legislation comes at a time when Cheshire and Merseyside also reaffirms its plans to create a Smokefree subregion by 2030, thanks to a new Programme of work from the Directors of Public Health and Population Health. Colleagues from across the health and care system joined the Collaborative and the Local Government Association for a Sector Led Improvement workshop to help develop the scope and objectives for Programme.

To stay up to date with this work as it develops and the progress of the Tobacco and Vapes Bill through Parliament, subscribe to Collaborate, the Collaborative’s stakeholder newsletter, here.