MPs back tobacco generational ban

Massive majority sees bill pass through Parliament

A person hands somebody else a packet of cigarettes with a health warning seen on the pack.
The Tobacco and Vapes Bill passed its second reading in Parliament and could stop consumers who turn 15 this year from ever legally buying tobacco.

THE controversial Tobacco and Vapes Bill has been passed through parliament as MPs back the new law with an overwhelming majority.

With 383 votes to 67, both sides of the benches agreed to ban anyone born from 1 January 2009 from buying tobacco products, making the legislation likely to carry through regardless of the outcome of the upcoming general election.

Speaking ahead of the Second Reading of the Bill, which took place on 16 April, Steve Brine MP, chair of the health and social care committee, said: “It is beyond reason that we allow the legal sale of products that are known to kill when used correctly.

“Tens of thousands of lives lost to cancer, heart disease and strokes could be saved by backing this legislation. Smoking is the biggest preventable killer in our country today.

“We’re not talking about people having a free choice, it’s an addiction.”

While the introduction of the smoking generational ban will be a devolved matter, the Scottish Government has already agreed to roll out the legislation across the country.

The new law will prevent anyone who turns 15 this year from legally purchasing tobacco products as well as enforce stricter punishments on those found to be selling any nicotine products to people under the age of 18.

However, the introduction of the bill has raised plenty of doubts from members of the retail industry, especially when it comes to the financial void left in its wake.

Westminster has already confirmed the introduction of this bill will bring a cost of around £18.6billion, just from the reduction in the level of smoking as this number does not include the cost to HMRC. Despite this, the government still argues the Bill’s overall impact on society will be a positive one.

Along with this, there is a great deal on concern about how this move will only continue to fuel the illicit market, with a recent report from the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association (TMA) highlighting that four in five people in the UK accessed tobacco products that were not subject to UK tax during 2023.

This shows the ease of access in the illegal market and, with little involvement from the UK Government to prevent this further, the bill could put the wind in the sails of the illegal trade.

Speaking on industry body’s latest report, Rupert Lewis, director of the TMA, said: “Repeated increases in tobacco taxes and ongoing cost-of-living pressures are changing consumer behaviour and driving more smokers to buy illegal tobacco through criminal channels.

“This is especially alarming, given the Government’s intention to introduce a ‘phased generational ban’ on the purchase of all tobacco from 1 January 2027.

“I believe that there will be profound and far-reaching repercussions for consumers, retailers, law enforcement agencies and communities across the UK if a phased generational ban becomes law.

“In time, it will push the entire UK tobacco market underground, and I urge the Government to reflect hard on the consequences of this policy decision and the lasting impact that it will have on the UK.”