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13th October 2023
The UK Government has launched a public consultation on its plans to create a smoke-free generation at the same time as introducing measures to tackle vaping in teenagers.
It follows proposals announced earlier this month by the Prime Minister that it will become illegal for people born in or after 2009 to buy tobacco products.
Under the plans, the law will stop children turning 14 or younger this year from ever legally being sold tobacco products, raising the smoking age by a year each year until it applies to the whole population.
Several options for cracking down on youth vaping are also included in the consultation after figures form 2023 suggest one in five children has tried it.
Measures will need to balance the need to make vapes available to current adult smokers to help them quit while reducing access and appeal for children and teenagers, the consultation document states.
Possible changes in law range from limits on how vape flavours are described to restrictions on ingredients or flavours, such as tobacco, mint or fruit flavours only.
The public is also being asked for views on regulating displays in shops to being behind the counter but on display or hidden, as with current rules on tobacco products.
Various options for branding and presentation are being considered including banning the use of cartoons, animals and other child-friendly imaging to more stringent restrictions on imagery and colouring used in the packaging.
Questions on whether disposable vapes should be banned are also included in the consultation, and views are also being sought on the cost of vapes compared to tobacco products.
Currently 12.9% of people in the UK are smokers. In setting out the proposals, the Government said no other consumer product kills up to two-thirds of users.
It added that in England, almost every minute of every day someone is admitted to hospital because of smoking, and up to 75,000 GP appointments could be attributed to smoking each month. The consultation also covers Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Last year a damning review led by Dr Javed Khan into the Government’s ambition to make England smoke-free by 2030 backed England to follow in the footsteps of New Zealand, and recommended ‘increasing the age of sale from 18, by one year, every year until no one can buy a tobacco product in this country’.
Last month, researchers declared that nicotine vaping is the most effective among widely available smoking cessation aids.
Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay said: ‘There has been a surge in vaping amongst children, which is why we’re taking action to reduce the appeal and availability of vapes. Vapes should never be used by children and we’re committed to reversing this trend.
‘We also need to take bold action to protect future generations from the harms of smoking addiction, which damages health at every stage of life and costs the economy billions.’
Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England said: ‘Ensuring people do not become addicted to smoking, and helping them overcome addiction to stop smoking are two the best interventions for health.
‘Vaping is less dangerous than smoking but 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.’
Sarah Woolnough, chief executive at Asthma + Lung UK, said the charity welcomed the consultation as it is clear more must be done urgently to stop children accessing vapes.
‘Disposable vapes at their current pocket money prices, with cartoons and bubble-gum flavour options, are far too attractive and easy for children to access,’ she said.
The public consultation is open until 6 December.