The UK’s Tobacco and Vapes Bill, which includes Rishi Sunak’s proposed tobacco  generational ban, has been excluded from the list of bills to be processed before the upcoming general election, held on July 4th. The government’s decision not to push forward with the legislation has caused confusion, given its perceived importance to Sunak’s legacy. However, tobacco harm reduction expert Clive Bates told Vaping Post that this does not mean in any way that the bill has been dropped.

“This election was announced earlier than expected, so some of the legislation that has not completed its passage through parliament is expedited (a process known as the Wash Up). Other legislation has too far to go or is contentious and has to be abandoned. But the incoming government can revive it after the election. Both main parties have said they will revive it,” explained Bates.

In fact, the tobacco and vapes bill was still in the early stages of the legislative process, and while it had passed a Commons vote last month, it made no further progress. Subsequently, as explained by Bates, the bill was hindered by a guideline requiring it to be at least halfway through the legislative process, in order to be included in the wash-up period. Hence, despite Sunak emphasizing the importance of this smoking ban in his election announcement speech, Commons leader Penny Mordaunt did not include it in the final legislative schedule.

The Labour Party is expected to revive the bill

The smoking generational ban bill aimed to prohibit the sale of tobacco products to anyone born in 2009 or later, effectively creating a smoke-free generation. However, with its exclusion from the current legislative agenda, it is unlikely to be implemented by Sunak’s government before the election. There remains a slim possibility that the bill could be revived at the last minute through an emergency statement, but otherwise, it will fall to the next government to reintroduce the bill.

Experts in the field have been concerned that banning cigarettes could just make smoking more appealing, especially among youth, who tend to be drawn to forbidden substances.
Committed to this policy, the Labour Party, are likely to include it in their manifesto and revive it after the election. In fact Bates sounds convinced that they will. “Labour will certainly revive this legislation, at least in some form,” he said. Moreover, Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, was approached by a health minister for support, indicating Labour’s continued backing for the bill.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), noted that the bill has been strongly supported by UK chief medical officers and the public. Like Bates, she also expressed confidence that the bill is likely to be reintroduced and expedited by the next government, emphasizing its importance for children’s health and economic productivity.

Why Generational Bans can be counterproductive

Meanwhile, other experts in the field of smoking cessation, have been concerned that banning cigarettes could just make smoking more appealing, especially among youth, who tend to be drawn to forbidden substances. Moreover, the unavailability of the products to a certain age group would make them resort to purchasing them illegally, giving rise to a thriving black market, and therefore increased criminal activity, as well as the circulation of unregulated, therefore possibly unsafe, products.

In similar news, last December, New Zealand’s National party which won 38% of the vote in the October 2023 election, announced plans to scrap the generational ban previously introduced under the previous Jacinda Ardern-led government. The measure would have banned cigarette sales to anyone born after 2008 as of 2024.

Some health experts strongly criticized the reversal, emphasizing that the generational ban would have significantly benefited public health. However, THR experts had long contended that prohibition had never been effective and that a generational tobacco ban would merely boost an already existing black market while unintentionally making smoking more appealing to minors.

The Aotearoa Vape Community Advocacy (AVCA) had noted that a generational tobacco ban might even be illegal. The group stressed that all adults have the right to make informed choices and voiced concerns about implementing measures that would prohibit a specific consumer product for a particular age group upon reaching adulthood.

The Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Bill was introduced the previous year and also aimed to reduce tobacco retailers by 90% and limit nicotine levels in cigarettes. Despite opposition, the new government announced plans to repeal the Smokefree legislation, citing the influence of its coalition partners in this decision.

Scotland Announces Generational Tobacco Ban Which Includes Vaping

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