MPs in the House of Commons have been discussing the Health Bill

MPs in the House of Commons have been discussing the Health Bill

In early June, MPs in the House of Commons debated a new Health Bill that, if passed, would introduce several new measures designed to protect children from accessing tobacco products and from insidious tobacco marketing.

While the bill was passed at this stage, we still need your support to urge the Government to go further with a ban on tobacco vending machines, and to ensure that all tobacco products to be sold in plain packages.

While smoking rates have been declining in recent years, there are still roughly 190,000 11-15 year old smokers in England.

What’s more, eight out of ten adult smokers start before the age of 19, meaning that efforts to keep young people from trying cigarettes in the first place could lead to a huge drop in smoking rates over the long term.

This is vital, especially given that researchers estimate that smoking costs the NHS at least £2.7 billion every year – and possibly more.

Since August of last year, Cancer Research UK’s Out of Sight, Out of Mind Campaign has been calling for tougher measures to be introduced in order to better protect children from tobacco marketing. In particular, the campaign calls a comprehensive tobacco control strategy that includes:

  • the banning of tobacco displays in shops and supermarkets;
  • an end to the sale of tobacco through vending machines; and
  • the requirement for all tobacco products to be sold in plain packages (that is, packages with no labels or pictures except for the health warning and the brand name in a plain font)

These measures are important since research supported by Cancer Research UK (pdf) shows that tobacco displays and packages are influencing young people to take up smoking. Meanwhile tobacco vending machines are the usual source of cigarettes for 17 per cent of young people who smoke, compared with just 1 per cent of adult smokers (there’s more about all this on our Health Bill webpage).

The Health Bill now under debate would ban tobacco displays, further restrict tobacco vending machines to prevent their use by children, and allow for vending machines to be banned entirely if the restrictions aren’t successful.

However, Cancer Research UK and its partners in the Smokefree Action Coalition believe that the Bill should adopt all of the goals in the Out of Sight, Out of Mind campaign from the outset.

These views were echoed by several MPs during the debate, with Members from all major parties supporting the removal of public tobacco vending machines and the Chair of the All-Party Group on Smoking and Health presenting the case for plain packaging.

The Bill will now go to a small committee of MPs for detailed consideration and debate before going on to “Third Reading,” when the Bill will once more be presented to all MPs in order to get their final approval – probably in early July.

Possible changes to the Bill will be debated at the Committee Stage, but the crucial time for supporters to influence their MPs is before Third Reading takes place.

So – if you haven’t yet done so, please e-mail your MP before this final debate to call for support for our campaign to make smoking history for our children.


Paul Thomas is a Public Affairs and Tobacco Control Assistant in our Public Affairs team