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Home » Government Sets Out Next Steps to Create ‘Smokefree Generation’

Government Sets Out Next Steps to Create ‘Smokefree Generation’

by Lucas Hayes
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The government has launched a public consultation on youth vaping as part of measures to clamp down on vapes being promoted to children.

  • Launch of public consultation following Prime Minister’s historic proposals to create first smokefree generation and crack down on youth vaping
  • Teenagers, parents, teachers, medical professionals, academic experts and others have eight weeks to submit views on government plans and to share experiences
  • The government is committed to clamping down on vapes being promoted to children while ensuring adults who want to quit smoking remain supported

People of all ages are being invited to take part in a public consultation seeking views on plans to crack down on youth vaping by reducing the appeal, affordability and availability of vapes to our children.

The consultation launched today (Thursday 12 October) is open to anyone, of any age, in the UK and includes proposals to restrict child-friendly flavours and bright coloured packaging. People have eight weeks to share their experiences and opinions and help shape future policy on vaping and smoking.

Last week, the Prime Minister unveiled plans to introduce a new law to stop children who turn 14 this year or younger from ever legally being sold cigarettes, in a bid to create the first ‘smokefree generation’. Smoking is the UK’s biggest preventable killer – causing around 1 in 4 cancer deaths and 64,000 in England alone – costing the economy and wider society £17 billion each year.

He also set out the government’s concerns about the worrying rise in vaping among children, with youth vaping tripling in the last three years and one in five children having now used a vape. Vaping is rightly used by adults as a tool to quit smoking, but the health advice is clear – if you don’t smoke, don’t vape and children should never vape.

Views on these proposals are now being sought from everyone, including the public, the retail sector, clinicians and medical professionals, public health stakeholders, academic experts, employers and trade unions.

The consultation has generated widespread support right across the four corners of the UK, with the Welsh government, Scottish government, and the Northern Ireland Department of Health all giving it their backing and agreeing to a joint consultation.  

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:

Last week I promised to create the first smokefree generation and I am wasting no time to deliver on that promise.

Our ambitious plans will reverse the worrying rise in youth vaping while protecting our children from the dangerous long-term effects of smoking as quickly as possible.

Proposals being consulted on include:

  • Making it an offence for anyone born on or after 1 January 2009 to be sold tobacco products
  • Restricting the flavours and descriptions of vapes so that vape flavours are no longer targeted at children – we want to ensure this is done in a way that continues to support adult smokers to switch
  • Regulating point of sale displays in retail outlets so that vapes are kept out of sight from children and away from products that appeal to them, such as sweets
  • Regulating vape packaging and product presentation, ensuring that neither the device nor its packaging is targeted to children
  • Considering restricting the sale of disposable vapes, which are clearly linked to the rise in vaping in children. These products are not only attractive to children but also incredibly harmful to the environment
  • Exploring further restrictions for non-nicotine vapes and other nicotine consumer products such as nicotine pouches
  • Exploring whether increasing the price of vapes will reduce the number of young people using them
  • 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

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.

These proposals build on previous initiatives to crack down on vapes becoming commonplace in classrooms while recognising them as an effective quit tool for smokers and central to the ambition for England to be Smokefree by 2030.  A UCL study estimated that swapping to vaping is already helping 50,000 to 70,000 smokers in England quit each year– saving thousands of lives.

Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England said:

Smoking causes cancers, heart and lung disease, stroke, stillbirth and dementia. 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.

Selling vapes to children is already illegal, but it is clear from recent statistics that vapes are too often targeted at children with the promotion of cheap, colourful and sweet flavours commonplace. This is despite the addictive nature of nicotine and the long term harms of vapes being unknown. Nicotine vapes in particular can be highly addictive and withdrawal causes anxiety, trouble concentrating and headaches.

Recent figures show the number of children using vapes in the past three years has tripled, with 20.5% of children aged between 11 and 17 having tried vaping in 2023, according to Action on Smoking and Health (ASH). Similar trends are reflected globally, including in Canada and New Zealand. Use amongst younger children is also rising, with 9% of 11- to 15-year-olds reportedly using vapes, according to a 2021 survey by NHS Digital.

Scottish Government Health Secretary Michael Matheson said:

We have already committed to a tobacco-free Scotland by 2034 and we welcome the opportunity to take part in this UK-wide consultation on creating a smoke-free generation.

Scotland has a range of world-leading tobacco control measures – we were the first country in the UK to introduce a ban on smoking in indoor public places in March 2006. As a result, smoking rates are at an all-time low. We continue to be ambitious and have more work to do to create a tobacco free Scotland, and I look forward to the refreshed tobacco action plan being published shortly.

We will continue to work with the UK Government and other devolved administrations on joint approaches where appropriate.

Welsh Government Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing Lynne Neagle said:

We want to take all actions possible to stop young people from starting smoking in the first place and from vapes being use by and targeted at children.

We have decided to consult jointly on these proposals as we believe they will be stronger if undertaken on a four nations basis.  I therefore encourage anyone with an interest in tobacco or vaping to take part in the consultation and share their views on how we can best protect children and young people from these products.

Permanent Secretary at Northern Ireland’s Department of Health Peter May said:

Northern Ireland’s Department of Health has agreed that NI will be included in the public consultation, to help inform future decision making.

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director at the British Heart Foundation said:

Following the Government’s very welcome signal that it intends to take decisive action to ensure future generations are smoke free, we are pleased to see it also consult about vaping. This is an important opportunity to ensure that regulations around vaping are effective, and that any actions carry the confidence of the public.

Sarah Woolnough, Chief Executive at Asthma + Lung UK, said:

We welcome today’s consultation on vaping announced by the government. It is clear we must urgently act 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. We also want to see restrictions on the marketing of vapes and on flavours so that they do not target children.

If you’re a smoker and you want to quit tobacco, vaping can be a helpful way to give up smoking. But for children and those who don’t smoke, starting to vape isn’t a good idea, especially if you have a lung condition.

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of health charity ASH, said:

Ground-breaking legislation to protect the next generation from smoking and vaping is needed, wanted and workable.

This consultation will ensure all voices are heard and the balance is struck between protecting children while still helping adult smokers quit. However, consultation must be followed rapidly by legislation to be passed in this parliamentary session. 

There is no time to waste, every day hundreds of children start smoking for the first time, two thirds of whom will go on to become daily addicted smokers.

Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, Michelle Mitchell, said:

We’re pleased that the UK Government’s consultation into youth vaping and smoking has launched. Preventing young people from taking up vaping is an area that needs stronger regulation, and we look forward to responding.

But it’s important to remember that based on current evidence, vaping is far less harmful than smoking cigarettes, and can help people to quit. The government is right to consider how any changes will impact people who use e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool.

Dr Jeanette Dickson, Chair of Council of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, said:

The Academy welcomes the consultation on smoking and vaping.

Smoking causes death and disability across all ages due to premature birth, heart disease, lung cancer and dementia. Eradicating smoking can only benefit the health of the population.

The introduction of cheap and accessible disposable vape products is also causing major environmental harm. Latest figures from Material Focus show 5 million disposable vapes are thrown away each week, a rapid increase from 1.3 million last year and is equivalent to the lithium batteries of 5,000 electric vehicles.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said:

The scale of the waste created by disposable vapes in the UK is shocking – industry research shows nearly 5 million single-use vapes are thrown away every week.

Not only will the Prime Minister’s historic proposals to crack down on cheap and accessible disposable vapes help create the first smoke-free generation, but they will be of major benefit to the environment by tackling a particularly problematic waste stream.

The new plans are backed by concrete evidence following the department’s youth vaping call for evidence. This received 441 responses, with the majority (324) coming from individual respondents and 117 coming from organisations.

Concerned parents and carers, education professionals and charities echoed the Prime Minister’s concerns about underage use and availability of often counterfeit or illicit products – frequently displaying cartoons. Parents told us more children are trying vapes than ever before because of the cheap price of disposable options, diverse range of flavours and marketing which makes vapes look more like sweets than a smoking alternative.

Source : Gov.UK

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