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One step closer to the smokefree generation: age of sale bill to be introduced to parliament

Jacob Smith
by Jacob Smith | News

20 March 2024

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the Palace of Westminster
TTStudio/Shutterstock.com


A new Bill to protect future generations across the UK from the harmful impacts of smoking will be introduced to Parliament today.  

Tobacco is the biggest preventable cause of cancer and death in the UK, causing an estimated 125,000 deaths a year* 

This will help ensure that future generations are protected from the harmful impacts of smoking and, if it has the impact Government hopes, save thousands of lives as well as billions of pounds for the NHS. 

“This legislation positions the UK as a world leader in tackling smoking,” said Dr Ian Walker, executive director of policy at Cancer Research UK.  

“Raising the age of sale of tobacco products has strong public backing and is the boldest prevention measure in years. 

“Nothing would have a bigger impact on reducing the number of preventable deaths in the UK than ending smoking. We urge all MPs to vote in favour of this bill, and for it to be passed as quickly as possible.” 

What’s in the bill?

Under the Tobacco and Vapes Bill, anyone born on or after 1 January 2009 will never legally be able to be sold tobacco, paving the way for the UK to create the first smokefree generation. 

Smoking itself will not be criminalised in the bill, and anyone who can legally buy tobacco now will not be prevented from doing so in future.  

Under the Bill, enforcement officers’ powers will also be strengthened with ‘on the spot fines’ of £100 to uphold the new laws and clamp down on underage sales of tobacco and vaping products.  

This builds on a maximum £2,500 fine that local authorities can already impose on retailers. 

The government has already announced funding to support smokers to quit with £70 million for local ‘stop smoking’ services.  

What about vaping? 

The Bill will also introduce new powers to make the packaging, display and flavours of e-cigarette products less appealing to children. It will also no longer be legal to give free samples of vapes to under 18s.  

The evidence so far suggests that legal vapes are far less harmful than tobacco and can help people to quit. 

So it’s important that vaping remains an accessible tool to those who may wish to use it to stop smoking. The government’s ‘swap to stop’ scheme in England, for example, provides free access to a vape kits alongside behavioural support to help adults stop smoking and improve health outcomes. 

However, the long-term health impacts of vaping are not fully known. Therefore, children and people who have never smoked, should never vape. 

Finally, the UK government has committed to ban the sale and supply of disposable vapes from April 2025 under separate environmental legislation.  

What’s next?

Following the first reading we proceed onto second reading when the MPs will have an opportunity to debate the bill. They will then vote and should the vote pass with over 50% of voting MPs, the bill will proceed to committee stage.  

At the end of the second reading, Parliament will publish the timetable for the bill, indicating when and for how long the committee will sit.  

The committee stage will see the MPs in the committee go through the bill line-by-line and propose amendments. 

Following the committee stage the bill goes to report stage where the rest of the MPs can propose amendments. However, not all amendments will be debated, with the Speaker selecting the amendments to be debated.  

Third reading is the final vote on the whole amended bill.  

This process then repeats in the House of Lords after which the bill gains Royal Assent where the King officially signs the bill into law.  

The 4-nation approach being used for this Bill requires each of the devolved nations – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to vote in each of their parliaments on whether to approve this Bill so that it can be introduced in each of their nations.  

This vote should happen before the final amending stage of the bill in the House of Lords. 

A poster for our Smokefree campaign

Get involved

You can get involved too. By using our quick and easy form to email your MP, you can tell them that you support a smokefree generation and help bring about a future where tobacco – the biggest cause of cancer and death in the UK – is a thing of the past.  

MPs will be voting on this legislation, so every email sent helps to show your support and encourages them to vote in favour.  It takes just two minutes to make an impact.’ 

*Global Health Data Exchange. Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Results Tool. Available from http://ghdx.healthdata.org/gbd-results-tool Accessed March 2024.   

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