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Article United Kingdom: Tobacco and Vapes Bill Introduced

On March 20, 2024, the government of the United Kingdom (U.K.) introduced the Tobacco and Vapes Bill, which is designed to stop addiction and create the first ever smoke-free generation in the U.K. by completely prohibiting the sale of tobacco to those born on or after January 1, 2009. The aim of the bill, which is described as “the single biggest preventative health policy in a generation,” is to save thousands of lives and billions of dollars in healthcare and lost-productivity costs caused by smoking and vaping.

The Tobacco and Vapes Bill would implement the “smokefree generation policy,” first recommended in the independent report titled The Khan Review: Making Smoking Obsolete. Clause 1 of the bill would prohibit the sale in England and Wales of all tobacco products, cigarette papers, and herbal smoking products to individuals born on or after January 1, 2009. This would serve to phase out the sale of these products to individuals who have never been able to lawfully use them while not stopping current smokers from being able to purchase them. Clause 2 of the bill would make it an offense in England and Wales to purchase tobacco products on behalf of anyone born on or after January 1, 2009. Clause 5 would require premises in England that sell tobacco products to display, in a prominent position, an age-of-sale notice stating that it is illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born on or after January 1, 2009.

Clauses 7 and 8 would continue the prohibition in England and Wales on the sale of vaping products to under-18s, as well as the purchase of vaping products on behalf of under-18s. The bill would also introduce the power to make regulations that apply to both nicotine and non-nicotine vaping products. These measures would be designed to reduce the “flagrant marketing of vapes to children using colours, flavours and packaging” by enabling ministers to regulate the flavors, contents, packaging, presentation, and sales displays of vaping products. Clause 9 of the bill would make it an offense to distribute free vaping products to under-18s in England and Wales, while clause 51 would provide Northern Ireland with the power to introduce a ban on vaping products. Scotland already has legislation in place that addresses these issues.

The bill provides enforcement authorities in England and Wales with the ability to issue fixed penalty notices of 100 British pounds (£) (approximately US$125) for the sale of tobacco or vaping products to those who are underage. Enforcement authorities can fine repeat offenders up to £2,500 (approximately US$3,100) and impose either a “restricted premises order” or a “restricted sale order.” A restricted premises order prohibits a business from selling cigarette papers, tobacco, or nicotine products to any customers for up to a year. A restricted sale order prohibits the person named from selling any cigarette papers, nicotine, or tobacco products or from managing premises that sell these products for up to a year.

The government has also stated that it will introduce separate environmental legislation to ban the sale and supply of disposable vapes from April 2025. The government has attributed disposable vapes to the rise in youth vaping. While vapes are less harmful than cigarettes, as they do not contain tobacco, they do contain nicotine. Research shows there has been a significant jump in the number of children using them over the past three years. During the period March to April 2023, 20.5% of children in the U.K. had tried vaping.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has stated that smoking is the “single biggest entirely preventable cause of ill health, disability and death” in the U.K. It is reported that 80,000 people across the U.K. die each year as a result of smoking and that the health issues caused by smoking result in significant pressure on the public healthcare system, with over 100 doctor’s appointments per hour attributable to smoking. Smoking is also a “major driver of socioeconomic and geographic inequalities.” While £10 billion (approximately US$12.5 billion) is raised by taxes from tobacco products annually, tobacco use costs the U.K. economy £17 billion (approximately US$21.3 billion) each year. This includes £14 billion (approximately US$17.5 billion) for lost productivity caused by lost earnings, unemployment, and early death, and £3 billion (approximately US$3.7 billion) in National Health Service (NHS) and social-care costs.

Clare Feikert-Ahalt, Law Library of Congress
April 18, 2024

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