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Stopping the Start: A Smokefree Generation

Volume 738: debated on Monday 16 October 2023

October 2023 the Prime Minister announced a bold and ambitious plan to create a “smokefree generation”, and the Government published the Command Paper “Stopping the start: our new plan to create a smokefree generation”. This Command Paper sets out:

Plans to bring forward legislation to make it an offence to sell tobacco products to anyone born on or after 1 January 2009. In effect, this would mean that the age of sale of tobacco products will increase by one year each year, so that children turning 14 years old or younger this year will never be legally sold tobacco, phasing out tobacco over time and preventing future generations from ever taking up smoking.

A package to support current smokers to quit smoking, including by more than doubling funding for stop smoking services with £70 million additional funding per year, and £5 million this year and £15 million each year after for anti-smoking marketing campaigns.

Measures to tackle youth vaping. While the legal age of sale for vapes is 18, and will remain so, youth vaping has tripled in the last 3 years. The Government announced that they will consult on measures to reduce the appeal and availability of vapes to children, including restricting flavours, regulating point-of-sale displays, regulating vape packaging, and restricting the sale of disposable vapes.

Plans to strengthen enforcement, including £30 million new funding each year for enforcement agencies.

Smoking is the single biggest cause of preventable illness and death and one of the biggest drivers of health inequalities across the country. It is responsible for disability and death throughout the life course, from increasing stillbirths to asthma in children, to dementia, stroke and heart failure in older age. Smoking causes around one in four cancer deaths in the UK and leads to 64,000 deaths per year in England. It costs the country £17 billion per year and puts huge pressure on the NHS, with almost one hospital admission every minute attributable to smoking and up to 75,000 GP appointments each month taken up by smoking-related illness in England.

It is therefore imperative that we take action, and these changes amount to one of the most significant public health interventions by the Government in a generation.

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement and the publication of the Command Paper, the government launched a formal consultation on 12 October 2023, “Creating a smokefree generation and tackling youth vaping”, to gather the strongest possible evidence on how best to implement these proposals. The consultation asks for views on three areas:

Creating a smokefree generation: the consultation gathers views on the smokefree generation policy and its scope to inform future legislation.

Tackling youth vaping: the consultation gathers views on several options to ensure we take the most appropriate action to tackle youth vaping while ensuring vapes continue to be available for current adult smokers to help them quit. The proposals in the consultation include restricting vape flavours, regulating point of sale displays of vapes, regulating packaging and presentation of vapes, and considering restricting the sale of disposable vapes. In addition, the consultation gathers views on the affordability of vapes and the role of a new duty on vapes.

Enforcement: the consultation asks about 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.

The consultation will be open for a total of eight weeks and will close on 6 December 2023.1 am pleased to say the consultation has received widespread support, and the Scottish Government, Welsh Government, and the Northern Ireland Department of Health have all given it their backing and agreed to a joint consultation.

Responses to the consultation will inform the measures that are taken forward and I will provide an update to the House on the response to the consultation in due course. Following consultation, we intend to introduce a Bill as soon as parliamentary time allows.