5 January 2024
Tobacco and Vapes Bill

I want to start my response by making it clear that the Government has never and will not criminalise smoking in this country. In addition, I want to clarify that a national licence scheme is not being proposed, which could have placed a greater burden on convenience stores.

However, the Government is proposing this legislation to help further reduce smoking rates among young people, and reduce the estimated £17 billion cost of smoking to the economy in England each year through lost earnings, unemployment, early deaths and costs to the NHS.

It is also important to recognise that smoking rates have been consistently declining in the UK for the past forty years, through a combination of consumer choice and Government regulation.  That is why tobacco companies like Japan Tobacco International (JTI) are increasingly focusing on promoting and selling vaping products. 

Following public health advice, vaping is being actively promoted by the Government as a way for adult smokers to switch to a healthier, less harmful alternative.  I also note that JTI and other tobacco companies have also been actively campaigning for tighter tobacco control measures to ensure vaping products do not appeal to young people and address illegal and non-compliant products.

You are right that we must strengthen enforcement around the sale of illicit tobacco and vaping products. That is why the Government is providing £30 million investment each year to prevent underage sales and tackle the import of illicit tobacco at the border.  On-the-spot fines will also be introduced for rogue retailers who commit underage sales and further steps will be taken to enhance online age verification.