Government to create ‘smokefree generation’ and restrict vape sales to children

The Government has set out its plans to phase out the sale of cigarettes and introduce tighter restrictions on vaping to protect children.

The Tobacco and Vapes Bill will restrict the sale of tobacco so that anyone turning 14 this year or younger will never legally be sold cigarettes.

In his speech to Parliament, the King said the Government would “introduce legislation to create a smokefree generation by restricting the sale of tobacco … and restricting the sale and marketing of e-cigarettes to children”.

This will effectively raise the age of tobacco sale by one year every year, the Government said, to prevent this and future generations from ever taking up smoking in the first place.

According to Government documents, smoking costs the UK around £17bn a year, including £10bn every year through lost productivity alone.

This cost dwarfs the £10bn raised through taxes on tobacco products, its figures show.

By creating a smokefree generation, smoking rates among those aged 14 to 30 could be near zero by 2040, calculations predict.

The King’s speech also promised a “further crackdown on youth vaping” with a consultation currently ongoing on how to protect children while encouraging adult smokers to use vapes to quit.

The consultation is asking people for their views on whether disposable vapes – which are known to be the first choice among children – should be banned or restricted and whether more needs to be done on pricing.

Health campaigners have repeatedly said that offering e-cigarettes for “pocket money prices” encourages children to take up vaping.

Other proposals include restricting the flavours and descriptions of vapes so they are no longer targeted at children, putting vapes out of the sight of children and regulating vape packaging and how products are presented.

Other suggestions in the consultation include on-the-spot fines for retailers who sell to underage children and greater measures to tackle online sales.

One in five children have now tried vaping despite it being illegal for under-18s, while the number of children using vapes has tripled in the past three years.

The King’s speech also touched on how the Government would continue to drive down NHS waiting lists and implement new changes to boost the workforce.

All the measures would apply to England, though the Government said it was working closely with devolved administrations on their intentions in relation to smoking and vaping.

Richard Murray, chief executive of the King’s Fund think-tank, welcomed the measures on smoking and vaping but repeated calls from earlier this week for mental health plans not to be shelved.

He said: “The notable absence of a new and reformed Mental Health Act from the King’s Speech is deeply disappointing.

“These reforms, such as changes to the criteria for detaining patients under the Act, have been carefully considered over many years, and it is worrying to see them deprioritised.

“Not bringing forward these reforms risks widening health inequalities.”