U.K. House of Commons to Vote on Pioneering Tobacco and Vapes Bill

Smoking, U.K. House of Commons to Vote on Pioneering Tobacco and Vapes Bill

The U.K. House of Commons is set to vote on the “Tobacco and Vapes Bill” that would prohibit tobacco sales to anyone born in 2009 or later, effectively implementing a lifetime smoking ban for those under 15. The bill also aims to curb vaping among youths and reduce the public health impact of smoking.

On Tuesday, the U.K. House of Commons will vote on the “Tobacco and Vapes Bill,” which proposes to prohibit anyone born in 2009 or later from purchasing tobacco, effectively imposing a lifetime ban on smoking for those currently under 15. The bill also includes additional restrictions on vaping.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, a Conservative, supports the bill, highlighting tobacco as “the single biggest entirely preventable cause of ill-health, disability, and death.”

The bill enjoys bipartisan support from both the opposition Labour Party and Sunak’s Conservative Party. However, it has faced criticism from within the Conservative ranks, including from former Prime Ministers Liz Truss and Boris Johnson. Johnson labeled the bill as “nuts,” while Truss criticized it as “profoundly unconservative.”

Smoking, U.K. House of Commons to Vote on Pioneering Tobacco and Vapes Bill

Conservative MP Simon Clarke voiced concerns on BBC radio, saying, “I think it actually risks making smoking cooler. It certainly risks creating a black market and it also risks creating an unmanageable challenge for the authorities.”

Despite these objections, the bill is likely to pass, as it has the backing of the Labour Party, and Conservative MPs have been given a free vote on the matter.

Public Health Minister Andrea Leadsom emphasized the health implications of tobacco use: “Smoking kills and causes harm at all stages of life from stillbirths, asthma in children, stroke, cancer to heart attacks and dementia,” she stated. “This bill, if passed, will have a substantial impact—preventing disease, disability, and premature deaths long into the future.”

Tobacco is linked to approximately 75,000 preventable deaths annually in the U.K. and results in over 500,000 hospital admissions. The proposed legislation would grant officers new powers to fine shops that sell tobacco or vapes to minors and impose stricter controls on the sale of vapes to reduce their appeal to children. Despite being illegal for under-18s, one in five children in the U.K. has tried vaping, according to government data.

If enacted, this bill would position the U.K. as the only country with a generational smoking ban and among the strictest in terms of anti-smoking laws globally. This follows a similar, albeit short-lived, law in New Zealand that was repealed earlier this year.

Financially, smokers cost the U.K. government around £14.7 billion ($18.3 billion) annually in health care and social services, which contrasts with the £10 billion ($12.5 billion) collected from tobacco-specific taxes, as reported by the Office for Budget Responsibility.

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