The Tobacco and Vapes Bill 2024

The Government has presented the Tobacco and Vapes Bill 2024 to the Houses of Parliament, introducing a range of measures some inside the Party have called “very unconservative”. The scale of rebellion in the Conservative Party could cause problems for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, but it is believed the Bill will become enacted. We look at what the new legislation will mean for vapers and vaping.

Why do we need The Tobacco and Vapes Bill 2024?
The Tobacco and Vapes Bill was introduced in the House of Commons on 20 March 2024.
The Government says the Bill is needed because “smoking damages and cuts lives short in extraordinary numbers – 80,000 people die every year in the UK due to tobacco. No other consumer product kills up to two-thirds of its long-term users.”

Referring to the data, the Government details the burden smoking places on the NHS. It estimates that in the twelve months from 2019 to 2020, 448,031 NHS hospital admissions were smoking related.

Cancer Research UK (CRUK) analysis estimates that up to 75,000 GP appointments each month are the result of smoking related problems, the equivalent to over 100 appointments every hour. Smoking is known to cause cancer, stroke, heart failure and disability.
The Government says over 80% of smokers start before they turn 20, most as children, and wish they’d never started – struggling to quit due to their nicotine addiction.

The Government believes this Bill will address this and prevent young people ever starting to smoke. It adds: “Vapes are substantially less harmful than smoking because they do not contain tobacco, and therefore can be an effective tool in supporting smoking cessation. However, the number of children using vapes has tripled in the past 3 years and a staggering 20.5% of children had tried vaping in March to April 2023.”

What does The Tobacco and Vapes Bill 2024 do?
“We want to stop the start of addiction and this is why the government is bringing forward legislation to create the first ever smokefree generation,” the Government says.

The Tobacco and Vapes Bill will:

1.Phase out smoking by making it an offence to sell tobacco products to those born on or after 1 January 2009 – nobody who is 15 or younger this year will ever be allowed to legally buy cigarettes.
2.Nobody legally allowed to buy any tobacco product will ever be allowed to buy them for those banned from smoking.
3.Age of sale notices will be placed in shops to support this rolling ban.
4.Politicians will be given powers under the Bill to regulate the flavours of eliquids.
5.Politicians will be given powers under the Bill to regulate what is in eliquid.
6.Politicians will be given powers under the Bill to regulate how vapes are displayed in shops.
7.Nicotine-free vapes are now banned for under-18s.
8.Free samples of vapes to under-18s are now banned.
9.Politicians will be given powers under the Bill to extend the measures targeted at vapes to nicotine containing tobacco pouches and tobacco-free pouches.
10.Authorities can issue Fixed Penalty Notices of £100 for the underage sale of vapes.
11.Additionally, Trading Standards can fine retailers up to £2,500, restrict the sale of products and close down premises.

No mention of specific bans
While the Bill does not detail specific bans, it does give ministers the power to implement them.
The Government says: “In Great Britain, the ASH 2023 report Use of e-cigarettes among young people in Great Britain shows that the most frequently used vape flavouring for children is ‘fruit flavour’, with 60% of current children using them. Seventeen per cent of children who vape choose sweet flavours such as chocolate or candy.”

It continued: “Our call for evidence on youth vaping showed us that children are attracted to the fruit and sweet flavours of vapes, both in their taste and smell, as well as how they are described. Research also shows that flavours are an important factor in motivating young people to start vaping.”
While admitting., “further analysis and consultation will need to take place before any specific regulations are introduced”, the intention is clear that the days of fancy juice flavours are numbered.

What would be the impact of a flavour ban?
The Government’s own impact assessment paper, released with the presentation of the Bill, says: “A possible unintended consequence of the vaping policies is that it could encourage more young people to try smoking. For example, a study from the US found that restricting flavours of vapes led to an additional 15 cigarettes sold for every 0.7mL vape pod not sold.”
On one hand, it believes a flavour ban will stop children from vaping. On the other, it admits that this will lead to an increase in teen smoking.

How vape packaging will change
“Vapes can entice children to start vaping through brightly coloured packaging, and imagery such as cartoons,” says the Government.
It says that research on standardised packaging shows that plain packaging which eliminates branding images decreases the appeal of vapes for young people and that the public supports this measure according to the 2023 ASH public opinion survey.

How displays will change
“It is unacceptable that children can see and pick up these products in retail settings easily due to them being displayed within aisles, close to sweets and confectionery products and on accessible shelves,” the Government states.
The Government was initially dissuaded from forcing vapes into closed cabinets (like cigarettes) because tobacco control experts pointed out that adult smokers needed to see vapes on sale and that they weren’t treated like tobacco products to encourage smokers to switch to vaping. It appears the Government is keen to revert to its initial plan for displays.

What about the vape tax?
The vaping product duty is not included in the Tobacco and Vapes Bill but has been announced as part of the Budget statement.
“Vapes are often sold at ‘pocket money’ prices, making them extremely affordable to children and young people,” says the Government. “To discourage non-smokers and young people from taking up vaping and to raise revenue to help fund public services like the NHS, the government will introduce a new excise duty on vaping products.”
It states that the new tax will be applied to vape products from 1 October 2026.

What does the vape industry think about The Tobacco and Vapes Bill 2024?
The UK Vaping Industry Association says that the Bill places “millions of lives at risk” because the Bill “ignores potential negative public health outcomes of proposed new vape restriction”. It says that a risk assessment should be carried out as a priority “to prevent a looming public health catastrophe.”

It has called delivering power to the Secretary of State to implement politically motivated decisions at the expense of the health impacts as “irresponsible in the extreme”.
The Independent British Vape Trade Association said that while there are things to be welcomed, such as increasing the powers to clamp down on illegal sales, “excessive restrictions on the types of products that our members can provide may reduce the products’ appeal, but even worse, may contribute to continued misperceptions about the harm of vaping relative to tobacco smoking. Specifically, the role of flavours in supporting adult smokers to a successful quit attempt is extensive and widespread, and therefore any reference to potential powers to permit future legislation around their use is extremely worrying.”

I’m not keen on some of this, what can I do?
If there are parts of The Tobacco and Vapes Bill 2024 that trouble you, write to your local MP.
Tell them about your smoking history – how long you smoked for, how many you smoked a day, and the trouble you had quitting. Explain to them how vaping helped you to stop smoking, or prevented you from relapsing back to tobacco, and the types of devices and juice flavours that worked for you. Tell them how the cost saving was also helpful in keeping you smoke-free.