UK: Tobacco and Vapes Bill Unlikely to Pass Before July Election

The UK Parliament will probably not take action on the proposed Tobacco and Vapes Bill this week, which means the bill would be unable to pass before Parliament is dissolved on May 30 in advance of a July 4 national election. The snap election was called by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, although his Conservative Party appears likely to lose after 14 years in power.

The bill includes the “smokefree generation” law proposed by Sunak last October, but also gives government ministers the ability to regulate vaping flavors and packaging and to restrict the display of vaping and other nicotine products in retail outlets. It would also regulate nicotine-free vape products for the first time.

The bill could theoretically be passed during the period between now and the dissolution of Parliament—called the "wash-up"—but other high-priority legislation supported by both major parties is expected to occupy that time. House of Commons leader Penny Mordaunt did not include the vapes bill in a list of items scheduled for debate this week, according to the BBC.

However, the bill is supported by both major parties, and will likely return after the election, when it will be reintroduced by the Conservative Party that first proposed it, or the rival Labour Party if it takes a majority. 

If Labour wins, additional restrictions might be included in a new bill. Labour MP Wes Streeting, the party’s “shadow health minister,” has openly admired the prescription-only vape policy promoted by Australian Labor Party health minister Mark Butler.

Sunak’s proposal to ban disposable vapes had been planned as separate legislation. It’s unclear how the post-election Labour government may handle that.

A first-ever British tax on vaping products has also been proposed, but is not part of the Tobacco and Vapes Bill. A consultation to gather public opinion on the tax is set to end on May 29.

Whichever party takes a majority in July, it appears a decade of liberal, hands-off vape policy in the UK has come to an end, and British vapers will have to actively fight with their government to maintain reasonable rules and standards for access to non-combustible nicotine products.