Why Tackle Smoking?
Smoking is the single largest preventable cause of illness, disability and death. It affects over 6.4 million people in the UK, causing 64,000 deaths a year, with one in four cancer deaths attributed to smoking. Moreover, smoking leads to various health issues, including: strokes, diabetes, heart disease, stillbirth, dementia and asthma. The outcome of these illness is a significant impact both to the individuals themselves and to our healthcare system.
The Economic and Social Impact
The economic burden of smoking is staggering, costing the country £17 billion annually, including £14 billion in lost productivity and £3 billion in healthcare costs. Hospital admissions due to smoking occur every minute, and over 75,000 GP appointments each month are related to smoking-related illnesses. By taking bold and comprehensive action with The Tobacco and Vapes Bill, the government aims to reduce these staggering numbers.
Key Provisions of the Tobacco and Vapes Bill
Creating a Smoke-Free Generation: Children born on or after 1st January 2009 (aged fourteen or younger) will never be legally sold cigarettes. The age of sale will be effectively raised by one year each year for this generation, ensuring they never take up smoking.
Cracking Down on Youth Vaping: The bill aims to reduce the appeal and availability of vapes to children while ensuring they remain accessible for adult smokers looking to quit. This includes regulating vape flavors and descriptions, point-of-sale displays, packaging, and product presentation.
Strengthened Enforcement: The bill grants new powers to fine rogue retailers who sell tobacco products or vapes to underage individuals on the spot. It also targets illegal online sales by enhancing online age verification.
Consultation and Support
To ensure that the bill is well-informed and has the support of the public, an eight-week UK-wide public consultation was launched in October. It has gained widespread support, with backing from the Welsh Government, Scottish Government, and the Department of Health in Northern Ireland. This collaborative effort shows the commitment to creating a healthier, smoke-free future for our children.
Economic and Health Benefits
Creating a smoke-free generation could significantly reduce smoking rates among 14-30 year olds by 2040 - saving lives, reducing the burden on the NHS and boosting the economy. The benefits extend to addressing socioeconomic disparities in health outcomes, leveling up the UK in the process.
The Rise of Youth Vaping
The bill also tackles the issue of youth vaping, which has seen a rapid increase, with more children trying vaping than smoking. Disposable vapes play a significant role in this trend. It is crucial to align regulations with international practices and restrict the promotion and marketing of vapes to children.
The government has a strong track record of taking comprehensive action on tobacco control. It has banned smoking in cars with children, introduced plain packaging for tobacco, and prohibited the sale of menthol-flavored cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco. Additionally, it has provided significant funding for anti-smoking campaigns and local stop-smoking services.
The Tobacco and Vapes Bill is a critical step towards a smoke-free future for our children and a healthier, more equitable society. By tackling smoking and youth vaping, the government is taking a proactive stance on public health, one that supports vaping as a tool for adult smokers looking to quit.