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Prime Minister Announces Flavour Ban

The PM has announced plans for a ‘smokefree generation’ which includes a ban on vape flavours and coloured products

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Rishi Sunak announced that the Government is to introduce new law to protect future generations of young people from the harms of smoking at the Conservative Party conference. Drilling down, as well as the rolling ban on children being able to buy tobacco, there is a planned ban on disposables, e-liquid flavours and the use of colour in products.

The government is set to introduce what it calls “a historic new law” to stop children who turn 14 this year or younger from ever legally being sold cigarettes in England, in a bid to create the first “smokefree generation”.

The proposed new legislation will make it an offence for anyone born on or after 1 January 2009 to be sold tobacco products – effectively raising the smoking age by a year each year until it applies to the whole population. This has the potential to phase out smoking in young people almost completely as early as 2040.

The reasoning is because smoking is highly addictive, with 4 in 5 smokers starting before the age of 20 and remaining addicted for the rest of their lives. By stopping young people from ever starting to smoke, Sunak says, the government will protect an entire generation of young people from the harms of smoking as they grow older.

It is roundly accepted that smoking is the UK’s biggest preventable killer – causing around 1 in 4 cancer deaths and leading to 64,000 deaths per year in England. It 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.

It is also one of the biggest drivers of health inequalities across the country – deaths from smoking are more than two times higher in the most deprived local authorities, where more people smoke, compared to the most affluent. Smoking rates in pregnancy also vary hugely, with as many as 20% of pregnant women smoking in some parts of the country – increasing the chance of stillbirth by almost 50%.

And while vaping is an effective tool for adults quitting smoking, we are determined to tackle the concerning surge in children vaping, driven by marketing and flavouring which appears to specifically target young people” - Sunak

Smoking also costs the economy £17 billion a year, through smoking related lost earnings, unemployment, early deaths and costs to the NHS.

The Government says: “These changes amount to one of the most significant public health interventions by the government in a generation. If the government does not act, the independent review published in 2022 estimated that nearly half a million people will die from smoking by 2030.

More broadly it is expected to mean up to 1.7 million fewer people smoke by 2075 – saving tens of thousands of lives, saving the health and care system billions of pounds and boosting the economy by up to £85 billion by 2075. It would also avoid up to 115,000 cases of strokes, heart disease, lung cancer and other lung diseases.

Smoking will not be criminalised, and our phased approach means anyone who can legally buy cigarettes now will not be prevented from doing so in future.”

Sunak said: “No parent ever wants their child to start smoking. It is a deadly habit – killing tens of thousands of people and costing our NHS billions each year, while also being hugely detrimental to our productivity as a country.

I want to build a better and brighter future for our children, so that’s why I want to stamp out smoking for good. These changes will mean our kids will never be able to buy a cigarette, preventing them getting hooked and protecting their health both now and in the future.”

Things get a bit sticky when you look at the details.

Restricting the flavours and descriptions of vapes so that vape flavours are no longer targeted at children” - Sunak

Sunak goes on to say: “And while vaping is an effective tool for adults quitting smoking, we are determined to tackle the concerning surge in children vaping, driven by marketing and flavouring which appears to specifically target young people.”

The government’s “major crackdown on youth vaping” includes an intention to consult on plans to reduce the appeal and availability of vapes to children.

“It is already illegal for children to vape but in a worrying trend, youth vaping has tripled in the last three years, and more children now vape than smoke.”

They are implementing a consultation which will look at:

  • 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.
  • 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.

Sunak says his new vaping crackdown is going to benefit from £30 million to support agencies such as local trading standards, HMRC and Border Force to take action. This is not true, this is old money and had already been announced.

Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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