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    Labour urged to revive vape bill by charities and health experts

    Ali Anderson
    Ali Anderson
    July 10, 2024
    3 min
    Download Source FilesDownload Source Files

    The new UK Government has been urged to revive the Tobacco and Vapes Bill in an open letter signed by more than 1,000 charities and health experts. 

    The bill would ensure that anyone born after 1 January 2009 is banned from ever buying cigarettes. However, it also aims to crack down on the sale of vapes - despite them being an effective aid to quit smoking.

    Under the proposed law, each year the legal age for cigarette sales - currently 18 - will increase by one year. It will not affect those who are allowed to buy cigarettes now. If it becomes law, the bill will be among the toughest anti-smoking measures in the world.

    Shelved by the snap election

    The bill passed its first parliamentary stage in April, despite fierce opposition from then Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s own Conservative MPs. 

    Sunak was then forced to abandon his plans when he called a snap general election that didn’t give enough time for the bill to go through parliament before it closed. 

    Now, more than 1,000 experts from across the health sector have urged the new Labour Government to include the law “front and centre” when it announces its legislative programme in the King’s Speech.

    Seize the opportunity ‘with both hands’

    In an open letter to Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer and Health Secretary Wes Streeting, they say the party must seize the opportunity to phase out smoking “with both hands”.

    “Labour cannot achieve its manifesto commitment to halve differences in healthy life expectancy between the richest and poorest regions unless it prioritises ending smoking,” the letter says. 

    Signatories include representatives of health and care charities including Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), Cancer Research UK and the Royal College of Physicians (RCP). 

    The authors, led by Professor Nick Hopkinson, chair of ASH, said: “There is no time to waste. Measures to prevent vapes being marketed to children are urgently needed, while they remain accessible as an effective quitting aid for adult smokers.”

    However, opponents of the new bill say it threatens to cost more lives by making it harder for smokers to switch to vapes. 

    Vaping advocate Richard Pruen said on X (formerly Twitter): “If you want to stop vaping, it is easy. Pick up a refillable device, and liquid in the strength you need, then at your own pace lower nicotine to zero over time, then stop. Cigarettes don’t have that option. Plus 1200% more harmful than vaping. Please ask them to try that.” 

    Jukka Kelovuori, who says he gave up smoking by switching to vapes, added: “Do NOT cripple vaping with counterproductive restrictions like flavour bans or excessive taxes.”

    What the bill would mean for vaping

    The legislation includes restrictions on the display, contents, flavours and packaging of vapes and other nicotine alternatives. There would be £100 on-the-spot fines for retailers found to be selling tobacco and vapes to underage people. 

    The proceeds would be used to reinvest in enforcement of the law, on top of £2,500 fines that courts can already impose. The government says it plans to spend £30 million on enforcement, to include tackling the availability of cigarettes on the black market.

    The rules would apply in all duty free shops in the UK, but anyone buying cigarettes abroad would be able to bring them back to the UK as long as they were legally acquired elsewhere. 

    There are also plans to ban disposable vapes in England from April 2025 and to introduce a new tax on vaping from October 2026.

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