All 8 contributions to the Tobacco and Vapes Bill 2023-24 (Ministerial Extracts Only)

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Tobacco and Vapes Bill

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

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2nd reading
Tuesday 16th April 2024

(1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
Tobacco and Vapes Bill 2023-24 Read Hansard Text Watch Debate

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Tobacco and Vapes Bill 2023-24 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Victoria Atkins Portrait The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Victoria Atkins)
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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Before I start, I should declare an interest: before I was elected to Parliament, I used to prosecute serious and organised crime, including organised crime gangs who attempted to import illicit cigarettes.

For a moment, I would like us to imagine that we are not in this historic and magnificent Chamber but instead standing at the entrance of a local hospital. A patient comes through the doors, struggling to breathe; smoking sent their asthma spiralling out of control. A minute later, another patient passes by; smoking caused the heart disease that they are battling. A minute later, another person comes in, and then another. That vicious cycle repeats itself nearly every minute of every day in our national health system, because here in the United Kingdom almost one hospital admission a minute is the human cost of smoking.

Smoking leaves people with premature dementia. It puts them in care, attached to oxygen, for the rest of their life. It increases the risk of stillbirth by almost 50%. It is responsible for 75,000 GP appointments every month, and it takes about 80,000 lives every year.

Luke Evans Portrait Dr Luke Evans (Bosworth) (Con)
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I urge everyone who has come to the debate to go to a respiratory ward—I served on one for a year in my first junior doctor role—to watch people gasp for breath, struggle and fight, with their relatives asking you as a doctor to do something and you simply cannot. If the Bill is a step forward in stopping that situation, I am very much in favour of the Secretary of State taking it forward.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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I thank my hon. Friend for bringing to the Chamber his professional experience and the real-life consequences for his patients. If I may, I will unpack some of the details behind that invaluable intervention. The premise behind the Bill is exactly as he says—to stop the start—because there is no safe level of smoking and no safe tobacco product. In fact, it is the only product that, if consumed as the manufacturer intends, will kill two thirds of its long-term users.

The Bill is not about demonising people who smoke or stopping them from buying tobacco if they can do so today. It will not affect current smokers’ rights or entitlements in any way. Indeed, we want to help them to quit. We are supporting them by almost doubling funding for local stop-smoking services. Instead, the Bill is looking to the future, to give the next generation the freedom to live longer, healthier and more productive lives.

Edward Leigh Portrait Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con)
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How does the Secretary of State counter the Conservative argument that if we ban something, we massively increase criminality?

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Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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I am extremely grateful to my right hon. Friend. I will genuinely come to that, because I know that that is a concern that colleagues have. I will develop my arguments, if I may, but I also remind him of my declaration of interest and, believe you me, I have no interest whatsoever in making life easier for smoking gangs. That is why as part of the package I will announce further funding and investment for law enforcement agencies both at the border and at local level.

Some have said that it is concerning that we are banning things. I totally understand the concerns of fellow Conservatives. We are not in the habit of banning things—we do not like that. We will bring these powers in only when we are convinced—following a no doubt robust debate, with the intellectual self-confidence that we have on the Government Benches—that there is no liberty in addiction. Nicotine robs people of their freedom to choose. The vast majority of smokers start when they are young. Three quarters say that if they could turn back the clock, they would not have started. That is why, through the Bill, we are creating a smoke-free generation that will guarantee that no one who is turning 15 or younger this year will ever be legally sold tobacco, saving them from the misery of repeated attempts to give up, making our economy more productive and building an NHS that delivers faster, simpler and fairer care. It is our responsibility—indeed, our duty—to protect the next generation. That is what the Bill will do.

Lilian Greenwood Portrait Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South) (Lab)
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The Secretary of State is right that we should protect the next generation. Labour proposed the smoke-free generation legislation in January 2023. We voted to crack down on marketing vapes to children in 2021, but the Tories blocked it. I welcome this Bill, but does it not show that where Labour leads, some Conservatives follow? Is she not concerned about the number of her colleagues, who we see lined up in the Chamber, who will vote against this legislation today?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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That is a brave submission from the hon. Lady, given the debate in the Chamber yesterday. I certainly will not take lectures from Labour on this legislation. We are bringing it forward because we have looked carefully at the evidence. What is more, we have tempered it so that existing adult smokers will not be affected. If the message from the Labour party is that it wants to ban smoking for adults completely, it should make that argument. We have tempered this carefully to ensure that it only deals with future generations.

John Hayes Portrait Sir John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings) (Con)
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I commend my right hon. Friend for her approach to young people smoking, her determination to deal with illegal tobacco and her crackdown on vaping, which is a menace to young people as these things are sold like an item of confectionery. Will she accept that in doing all those things, she needs to be open minded about how the Bill can be improved? The idea of a rolling age of consent, with the consequence that someone of 35 will be able to buy tobacco but someone of 34 will not and so on, is at best a curiosity and at worst an absurdity.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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I am extremely grateful to my right hon. Friend and close Lincolnshire neighbour. He knows that on any piece of legislation I will always want to listen to and do business with colleagues. The principle behind this legislation is that these emerging generations will never take up smoking. That is the point.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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I will just finish this point. We are bringing forward this legislation so that we stop the start from 2027. Future generations will not have that addiction to nicotine.

Lyn Brown Portrait Ms Brown
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Let me say from the outset that I completely support this Bill. In Newham, 22% of sales last year were to under-age children—higher than alcohol, knives, fireworks and so on—and a total of £135,000-worth of illicit tobacco products were seized in just six months. Will the Secretary of State ensure that councils get the resources they need to continue the vital work of keeping these products out of the hands of the young?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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Yes, I can assure the hon. Lady, because the illicit trade is often the greatest in the most deprived areas of the country, and I am about to develop exactly how we will help law enforcement. I very much understand the concerns across the House about ensuring that the illicit trade does not flourish.

Jake Berry Portrait Sir Jake Berry
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Has my right hon. Friend seen the latest statistics that say twice as many schoolchildren smoke cannabis as smoke tobacco? It is already illegal—for all of us, not just children—to smoke cannabis. If a ban really worked, how can she explain those statistics? How can she show that this ban to stop people who are currently 15 will be different from the anti-drugs legislation that we already have?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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To be clear, is my right hon. Friend suggesting that we repeal the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, under which cannabis is prohibited? Although I have no experience of it, I understand that the consumption of marijuana also involves the consumption of tobacco and cigarette papers. The point is that we are trying to move away from the idea that current youngsters will be able to buy their cigarettes legally in shops from the age of 18 in 2027, precisely because we want to ensure that they can lead longer, healthier lives. In a moment I will come to some of the myths that the tobacco industry has put around about the impact of introducing age restrictions on cigarettes, which will be interesting evidence for those who are concerned about that.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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First of all, I commend the Secretary of State and the Government for bringing forward this legislation. I support it because I believe it is right, but I have been contacted by vaping groups. My right hon. Friend the Member for Belfast East (Gavin Robinson) and I met some last week. They sent me a small comment, and I want to ask the Secretary of State a quick question about it, so that we move forward with consistency to try to achieve something.

Those groups referred to the impact assessment report by the Department of Health and Social Care, and said that it fails to consider potentially detrimental effects of restricting vape users and smokers looking to switch. I think we all try to be helpful and constructive in our comments in this Chamber, so being constructive, they requested a vape retailer and distributor licensing scheme in the Bill. The industry has developed a comprehensive framework for such a scheme, which is designed to deal effectively once and for all with underage and illicit vape sales—a situation that could get worse. Does the Secretary of State intend to develop a vape retailer and distributor licensing scheme?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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I am extremely grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s support. We understand the level of lobbying that has been undertaken by both the vaping industry and the tobacco industry. We know that the vaping industry has pushed that as one of its lines. In the current vapes market, when walking into a local shop or a newsagent the vape products can be seen on sale next to the till, often next to the sweets—the part of the shop that children will be very attracted to, if my experiences are anything to go by. The industry markets them in very cynical ways. We are saying that it is already unlawful to sell vapes to under-18s, but we want to take the powers in this legislation to consult on flavours, design and so on, to ensure that vapes are sold as they are intended—to help adult smokers to quit, because no child should ever vape.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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I am going to make a little progress, if I may, because I want to come to the age of sale.

On the point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Sir Jake Berry) about the age of sale and the black market, tobacco industry representatives claim that there will be unintended consequences from raising the age of sale. They assert that the black market will boom. Before the smoking age was increased from 16 to 18, they sang from the same hymn sheet, but the facts showed otherwise. The number of illicit cigarettes consumed fell by 25%, and smoking rates for 16 and 17-year-olds dropped by almost a third. Consumption of illegal tobacco plummeted from 17 billion cigarettes in 2000-01 to 3 billion cigarettes in 2022-23. That is despite the further controls that this House has put in place in the meantime. Our modelling suggests that the measures in this Bill will reduce smoking rates among 14 to 30-year-olds in England to close to zero as soon as 2040. I hope that many of us in the Chamber today will still be here in 2040. This is our opportunity to play that part in history.

Thanks to constructive engagement with colleagues across the devolved Administrations, the measures will apply not just in England but across our entire United Kingdom, saving lives and building a brighter future. Having listened carefully to colleagues’ concerns about enforcement, we are making sure that local authorities will be able to keep every penny of the fixed penalties they bring in to reinvest in rigorous enforcement. In other words, we are looking not just at national enforcement, but at helping our very important and valuable local trading enforcement officers to keep the proceeds from the fixed penalties they hand out.

Vicky Ford Portrait Vicky Ford (Chelmsford) (Con)
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Does my right hon. Friend agree that, largely, the Bill will not affect people in this House but younger people, and that it is therefore incredibly important to listen to their voices on this issue? With that in mind, I wrote to every secondary school in my constituency to ask young people their views. The majority of young people in Chelmsford, when asked for their views, said they would support the measures in the Bill. It was not unanimous, but we work by majority. Given that it affects them and not me, I will be respecting their views when I vote today.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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I thank my right hon. Friend. Yet again, she reminds us what a brilliant local constituency MP she is. She has drawn out the voice of young people. When I pose questions about our NHS and the future I want to build for it—reforming it to make it faster, simpler and fairer—one thing I think about is the voice of younger people. If they are in work paying their taxes, they are paying for our NHS at this moment and they will be the users of it in the future. Part of my role as Health Secretary is to ensure that it has a sustainable funding model, that we are doing everything we can to increase productivity, and that we move the demand curve so that it celebrates its next 75 years.

Ian Paisley Portrait Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP)
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I thank the Secretary of State for giving way. She knows that I take a particular interest in the impact of retail crime. The British Retail Consortium indicates that there are about 1,300 acts of violence against shopkeepers across the UK daily. It has been suggested that one of the biggest triggers of attacks on shopkeepers is asking for proof of age. What additional resources can be put in to assist retailers and ensure they are protected from attacks?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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The hon. Gentleman raises a very fair point. Interestingly, the latest survey of retailers shows—I think I am right in saying it—that the majority of retailers support this policy, but he knows just how carefully the Government have listened to the concerns of retailers. My hon. Friend the Member for Stockton South (Matt Vickers) has led a relentless campaign on this issue, and I was really pleased that the Home Secretary was able to announce in recent weeks a specific crime relating to violence against retail workers.

Giles Watling Portrait Giles Watling (Clacton) (Con)
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I smoked until 30usb years ago and it was a very hard business to stop the evil weed. I come from a completely different era and I am considered something of a dinosaur. [Hon. Members: “Never!”] But I do still hope to be here in 2040. I wish to God that vapes had been around when I was going through the process of stopping smoking. Do we not need to be very careful that the Bill does not throw the baby out with the bathwater and stop helping people come off the evil weed?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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First of all, I completely reject my hon. Friend’s suggestion that he is a dinosaur. He brings a great energy and effervescence into the Chamber—or indeed any social situation. He articulates really well the struggle of addiction to nicotine and how tough it can be to give up. That is not a judgment on anyone; the substance is designed to addict. That is how the sales pitch is made. What we are trying to do is stop children being ensnared in that way. He is also right that at the moment the evidence suggests that vaping is a good way to help existing smokers to quit. If you do not smoke, please do not vape. Certainly, children should never vape. What we have tried to do with the Bill is build a balance in, so we are taking powers to look at packaging, flavours and so on. There will be a thorough consultation before any regulations are set, because we want to ensure that we are helping adults to quit, but in a way that is considered and well designed. I am extremely grateful to him for raising that point.

Alexander Stafford Portrait Alexander Stafford
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I am listening very carefully to what my right hon. Friend is saying. She outlined how the consumption of cigarettes has collapsed over the last couple of decades, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford) talked about how the young people she reached out to do not want to smoke any more. Is that not the heart of the matter? That is why I think the Bill is fundamentally wrong and misguided. Young people are not smoking. It is not cool to smoke. The Bill should be focused more on the vape side of things: illegal vapes, supercharged vapes, the colour and flavour of vapes. We are debating cigarettes, which are naturally going out of existence anyway, rather than focusing on the dangerous vapes that are addictive for young children. That is where the Government should put their focus, rather than wasting time talking about something that is dying out anyway.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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Sadly—I say this genuinely—there is nothing inevitable about a decrease in smoking rates. Indeed, in 2020 the United States saw the first increase in tobacco sales in 20 years, and in Australia in 2022 the proportion of teenagers smoking increased for the first time in 25 years. I am reminded by a Minister that here in the United Kingdom 100,000 children and young people take up smoking every year. We must not be lulled into a sense of inevitability and security, mindful as I am of how very clever the tobacco industry is at lobbying its messages because we are threatening its business model. As Conservatives, we must take into account that this is happening today, so we must ensure we tackle it head on.

Nickie Aiken Portrait Nickie Aiken (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con)
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I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way. She is making a very important point about young people and children smoking today. It is not just about cigarettes. Shisha smoking, in particular in Westminster, Marylebone and Edgware Road in my constituency, has become very fashionable for young people. An hour of smoking shisha equates to 100 to 200 cigarettes within an hour. Will she confirm that shisha tobacco will be included in the Bill?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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I thank my hon. Friend for bringing the City of Westminster right into the Chamber. There are, in fact, five times more people in England today smoking non-cigarette tobacco, which includes cigars and shisha, than there were a decade ago. Worryingly, the greatest increase is in young adults. That is why we have said that tobacco in all its forms is a harmful product, and that we therefore wish to ensure we are consistent in the policy and the messaging that this is about helping young people to stop the start.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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I am going to make some progress and then I will give way.

As I have said, the tobacco industry questions the necessity of the Bill on the grounds that smoking rates are already falling. It is absolutely correct that smoking rates are down, but as I said, there is nothing inevitable about that. Smoking remains the largest preventable cause of death, disability and ill health. In England alone, creating a smoke-free generation could prevent almost half a million cases of heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and other deadly diseases by the turn of the century, increasing thousands of people’s quality of life and reducing pressure on our NHS. An independent review has found that if we stand by and do nothing, nearly half a million more people will die from smoking by the end of this decade. We must therefore ask what place this addiction has in our society, and we are not the only ones to ask that question of ourselves. We know that our policy of creating a smoke-free generation is supported by the majority of retailers, and by about 70% of the public.

The economic case for creating a smoke-free generation is also profound. Each year smoking costs our economy a minimum of £17 billion, which is far more than the £10 billion of tax revenue that it attracts. It costs the average smoker £2,500 a year—money that those people could spend on other goods and services or put towards buying a new car or home. It costs our entire economy by stalling productivity and driving economic inactivity, to the extent that the damage caused by smoking accounts for almost 7p in every £1 of income tax we pay. As Conservatives we are committed to reducing the tax burden on hard-working people and improving the productivity of the state, which is why this Government have cut the double taxation on work not once but twice, giving our hard-working constituents a £900 average tax cut. That is a moral and principled approach.

Having celebrated the first 75 years of the NHS last year, I am determined to reform it to make it faster, simpler and fairer for the next 75 years, and part of that productivity work involves recognising that we must reduce the single most preventable cause of ill health, disability and death in the UK. This reform will benefit not just our children but anyone who may be affected by passive smoking, and, indeed, future taxpayers whose hard-earned income helps to fund our health service. Today we are taking a historic step in that direction. Creating a smoke-free generation could deliver productivity gains of £16 billion by 2056. It will prevent illness and promote good health, help people to get into work and drive economic growth, all the while reducing pressure on the NHS.

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham
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Of course, the tax burden is the highest it has been for some considerable time. I welcome the Bill, but the Khan review estimated that the Government’s smoke-free ambition would not be fulfilled in poorer communities until 2044, and there are many such communities in my constituency, so how will the Bill tackle that issue? Will it really be another 20 years before we see a result in poorer communities?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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No, because, as I have said, the modelling suggests that among the younger generation smoking levels will be close to zero by 2040. As for the hon. Gentleman’s point about tax, I do not remember him voting against the Government’s furlough scheme and other support during covid; nor do I remember him complaining that we were trying to help people with the cost of living. We as Conservatives understand that this is sound money, rather than the magic money tree that will somehow fund Labour’s £28 billion black hole.

Anthony Mangnall Portrait Anthony Mangnall (Totnes) (Con)
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I am somewhat perplexed by this debate, and indeed by the Bill. I do not consider it to be enforceable, and I also think it fails to take into account the effective tax measures and health campaigns that have been run by successive Governments to reduce the number of smokers. Nor does it respond to the fact that, in the long run, bad and poor diets are likely to kill more people than smoking. According to a recent study conducted by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle, more people are dying from malnutrition than from smoking. There is a principle at stake here: should the Government step in and deal with people who are eating unhealthy food?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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I am, of course, responsible for healthcare in England, so I will not trespass on the health needs of people in—as I think my hon. Friend said—Montreal. As for the Bill, it is intended to help children and young people to end their addiction to nicotine, which we know is one of the most addictive substances. As I said earlier, we should not assume that decreases in smoking rates such as those we have seen are inevitable; indeed, I have cited countries in which we have seen an increase. We also know that tobacco is being consumed in ways that are different from the ways in which it was consumed, say, 20 years ago. My hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Nickie Aiken), for instance, mentioned the rise of non-cigarette tobacco smoking. We are trying to address that, for the health of the individual as well as the wider health of society.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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I have already taken an intervention from the hon. Member for North Antrim (Ian Paisley). I will take one more, from the hon. Member for York Central (Rachael Maskell), and then I will make some progress—although I will give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Gareth Johnson) in a moment.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell
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The Secretary of State has talked about addiction to nicotine. If, as she has suggested, vaping is a pathway to stopping smoking, why does she not envisage a vape-free generation arriving in parallel with a smoke-free generation, so that we can have a nicotine-free generation across the board? Why does she not expand her legislation to ensure that young people take up neither smoking nor vaping?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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The House has already legislated to ensure that vapes cannot be sold to people under 18. However, as we are seeing in our local shops, the vaping industry is finding ways of marketing its products that seem designed for younger minds and younger preferences. Once the Bill has been passed, that age limit will be maintained for vaping but, importantly, from January 2027 onwards we will not see the sale of legal cigarettes or tobacco to those aged 18 or less.

Vicky Foxcroft Portrait Vicky Foxcroft (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab)
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Will the Secretary of State give way?

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Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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No; I want to make some progress. I want to say something about the measures on vaping because, as Members have already demonstrated today, there is a great deal of interest in the subject.

As any parent or teacher will know, there has been a dramatic and dangerous increase in youth vaping. At least one in five children have tried it. Many will say that the solution is simply to enforce the law, and of course that is a vital component, which is why we are investing £30 million in our enforcement agencies and hitting cynical businesses that sell vapes to children with on-the-spot fines. However, we must and will go further, because vaping damages our children’s future. It could damage their lungs while they are still developing, intensify the long-term pressure on the NHS, and damage their concentration at school—a point that many teachers have made.

We cannot replace one generation addicted to nicotine with another, and vapes are cynically marketed towards our children. They are sold at pocket-money prices, they share shelf space with sweets, they are branded with cartoon characters, and they are given flavours such as cotton candy and watermelon ice. Our children are being exploited, and we cannot and will not let that continue. The Bill will give us powers to crack down on child-friendly flavours and packaging and to change the way in which vapes are displayed in shops—measures on which we will consult.

Through separate environmental legislation we are banning the disposable vapes that young people favour and that do so much harm to our planet. Some 5 million are thrown away, either in bins or on our streets, every single week. That is equivalent to some 5,000 lithium car batteries from electric vehicles being thrown away every year. We have a responsibility to tackle the harm to our planet that is perpetrated by the vaping industry. While vapes can be helpful in assisting adult smokers to quit, our message remains clear: if you do not smoke, do not vape, and children should never vape.

Gareth Johnson Portrait Gareth Johnson (Dartford) (Con)
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I thank the Secretary of State for giving way; she is being very generous. The Bill gives her wide-ranging powers in relation to the flavours of vape liquid, packaging and so on, but does not oblige her to consult widely or look at impact statements. In fact, the word “consultation” does not appear anywhere in the Bill. Will she give the House a commitment that she will consult fully before exercising any powers given to her by the Bill?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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I thank my hon. Friend for highlighting that. I give a commitment here at the Dispatch Box that we will consult. We are very conscious of the complexities of this issue. We want to get it right, and my hon. Friend has my absolute undertaking that we will consult before regulations are brought before the House.

Ian Paisley Portrait Ian Paisley
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Will the Secretary of State give way?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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If the hon. Gentleman wants to dive in before I conclude, I will let him do so.

Ian Paisley Portrait Ian Paisley
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That is kind of the Secretary of State. I appreciate her taking these interventions.

Given that this a flagship policy for the Government, will the Secretary of State give me a guarantee from the Dispatch Box that the Bill will apply equally to all parts of the United Kingdom? I have raised a number of concerns about the fact that because we have a land border with the European Union, the EU will insist, under the Windsor framework, that it can block the implementation of the Bill in Northern Ireland, as it did with the Danish Government when they tried to introduce a similar measure. Can I have a guarantee that if the Bill will apply from 2027 in the United Kingdom, it will apply in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising a really important point. May I, through him, thank the new Northern Irish Health Minister, who has been very collaborative in bringing forward what needs to be brought forward as quickly as possible, given the historical context, so that we can have the Bill aligned across the United Kingdom? Our intention is absolutely as the hon. Gentleman describes: it applies throughout the United Kingdom. Of course, if he or his colleague in Belfast have concerns that there may be ways in which it could somehow be circumnavigated, we will listen carefully, but I should be clear that our intention is that the Bill applies to all children and young people across the United Kingdom, because we want to protect children living in Northern Ireland just as much as those in England, Wales and Scotland.

Rehman Chishti Portrait Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham) (Con)
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On the Secretary of State’s point about tackling illicit tobacco, I raised that question with the then Prime Minister in 2016, because in Medway we had one of the highest rates of illicit tobacco sales. The maximum sentence that can be given for the supply and sale of illicit tobacco is seven years. As part of the strategy to deal with illicit tobacco, will the Government look to increase sentences for its sale and supply? The Secretary of State is right to say that the Conservative party is committed to lower taxation, but tax avoidance and evasion costs this country £2 billion. If we do not get things right with regard to the banning of cigarettes, which I do not agree with—I think we should do it through education and awareness—we will get more people buying illicit tobacco. That cannot be right.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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My hon. Friend gives me the ideal opportunity to talk about my favourite criminal offence: cheating the public revenue, which is a criminal offence with very settled law. It has a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, and I have deployed it myself against the organised crime gangs to which I referred at the beginning of my speech. A sensible prosecutor will always look at that criminal offence, because it is settled law and good law, and it has a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for those who indulge in it.

Vicky Foxcroft Portrait Vicky Foxcroft
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Will the Secretary of State give way?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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I am going to conclude. In fairness, I have been generous with my time.

We want to build a brighter future for our children and grandchildren, which means moving from the tossing sea of cause and theory to the firm ground of result and fact. The result of this legislation will be to free future generations from the tyranny of addiction and ill health. The facts include that parents worry about youth vaping and want us to take on the tobacco and vaping industries. The result and facts of this change will save hundreds of thousands of lives, reduce pressure on our NHS and increase millions of young people’s chances in life. The decisions we make today will stand the test of time. For those many reasons, I commend the Bill to the House.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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I will try not to impose a strict time limit. If I were wishing to speak, I would start to think about taking seven minutes for my contribution. That does not apply to the shadow Secretary of State.

--- Later in debate ---
Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
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I do not know whether there is a problem with the speaker system in here, because this is the second time I have had an intervention after answering the question. I have already said that the Government have consulted on measures to clamp down, and I am absolutely not against the Government talking to people who, like the hon. Lady, have used vaping as a smoking cessation tool. In fact, I fully support the point she is making, which is that vaping can be a really effective tool to help smokers to quit smoking. I am in favour of that; that is good for health. If the Government want to talk to and engage with people who vape as part of the passage of this Bill, that is absolutely fine. What I am not in favour of is tying the Secretary of State’s hands when she wants to do more, and more quickly, to prevent children becoming addicted to nicotine.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Just to be clear, we will consult on this. It is a simple question that requires a simple answer: will Labour consult further?

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Mr Deputy Speaker, we are now in this parallel universe where the Secretary of State is asking me, the shadow Secretary of State, whether I am going to consult on her Bill. Now, I am willing to help her out, but if she wants me to sit on that side of the Chamber and run the Department of Health and Social Care, I am ready and willing, but we need a general election to do that. I do not understand—this is just extraordinary. I feel like I am living in a parallel universe this afternoon. It was bad enough when the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for South West Norfolk, walked in with her book and her fan club, and now we have the absurd spectacle of the Secretary of State asking me whether I will run the consultation on her Bill. This is extraordinary. I will allow her to correct the record and save her blushes.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Gentleman is not listening. He has been asked repeatedly whether he supports the concept of a consultation on vaping in order to ensure that these regulations are drawn up properly. He is not listening. He refuses to answer the question. We on this side of the House are clear: we want to get this right and we will consult. I am simply asking whether he will answer the questions that he has been asked.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Honestly, Mr Deputy Speaker, you just can’t help some people. I am trying to help the Secretary of State out and defend her against her own side, and now, to curry favour with them, she has turned on me. Now I know what it is like being in the Conservative party. This is like a 1922 committee meeting—absolutely absurd.

For the final time, let me just explain the situation we find ourselves in today. The Secretary of State is currently in government. This is her Bill. She is taking it through Parliament. She is perfectly able to run a consultation. I will support her in running a consultation, if that is the support she needs. [Interruption.] I am so pleased. If only I had known it was that easy. If all she needed was a bit of moral support from me to run the consultation, then you go, comrade—don’t you worry; I have got your back, and it is absolutely fine.

I am trying to be helpful to the Secretary of State this afternoon, but I just have to say to her that I am not sure that the best way to persuade her colleagues was to invoke the great cigar chomper, Winston Churchill. Some have estimated that Churchill went through 160,000 cigars in his time. Indeed, on one occasion, at a lunch with the then King of Saudi Arabia, Churchill was told that no smoking or drinking would be permitted in the royal presence. He responded:

“If it was the religion of His Majesty to deprive himself of smoking and alcohol, I must point out that my rule of life prescribed as an absolutely sacred rite smoking cigars and also the drinking of alcohol before, after and, if need be, during all meals and in the intervals between them.”

I appreciate the Health Secretary’s efforts, but I fear that Lord Soames was probably on to something when he said that his grandfather certainly would not have approved of this Bill.

Just before any Conservative Members decide to wage yet another culture war and accuse me of talking down one of Britain’s greatest Prime Ministers, I would just add to the historical record that it was thanks to the Labour party that it was Winston Churchill, not Lord Halifax, who became the leader of our country at a crucial time, and thank goodness that he did. Nevertheless, I do commend the Secretary of State on a good effort—she was close, but no cigar. Anyway, let us go back to the economic arguments of the Bill.

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Andrea Leadsom Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Dame Andrea Leadsom)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I want to start by thanking the many lung cancer and asthma charities, particularly ASH, for their advice, research and support. I personally pay tribute to the chief medical officer for England for his commitment to making the strongest possible case for this life-changing legislation, and to Health Ministers across the UK for their collaboration in what will be a UK-wide solution for future generations.

I was very disappointed with the hon. Member for Ilford North (Wes Streeting), who opened for the Opposition. I have said it before and I will say it again: I like the hon. Gentleman. He once said on air that that was death to his career! Why would he have said that, Madam Deputy Speaker? But I am really disappointed today, because he was not listening. My hon. Friends had some very sensible questions about consultation, and they raised very serious points about flavours for vapes and how they might help adults to quit. He was not listening; he was making party political points. In fact, he barely said anything sensible about the legislation. All he did was talk politics. I appreciate the fact that Labour Members have been whipped to support the Bill. On my side, colleagues are trusted to make their own decisions on something that has always been a matter for a free vote. [Interruption.] He sits there shouting from a sedentary position, political point-scoring yet again.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Preet Kaur Gill) raised a very serious question about stop smoking services. I can tell her that the Government have allocated £138 million a year to stop smoking, which is more than doubling. The Government’s commitment to helping adults to stop smoking is absolutely unparalleled.

I thank the hon. Member for East Renfrewshire (Kirsten Oswald) for her support for the Bill, and for the collaborative approach of the Government in Scotland in their work bringing forward this collaboration among all parts of the United Kingdom.

I pay particular tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Steve Brine), the Chair of the Health Committee for his excellent speech and his strong case for long-term policies that will prevent ill health and thereby reduce the pressures on the NHS, which is so important. He asked when we will see the regulations and the consultation on vaping flavours, packaging and location in stores. It is our intention to bring forward that consultation during this Parliament if at all practicable.

I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Sir Sajid Javid) for his tribute to Dr Javed Khan for his excellent report into the terrible trap of addiction to nicotine. My right hon. Friend made the point that it is simply not a free choice, but the total opposite.

I thank the Liberal Democrats and their spokesman, the hon. Member for St Albans (Daisy Cooper), for saying that they will support the Bill on Second Reading. I am not quite sure where they are going on the smoking legislation, but I am grateful for their support on vaping. I hope to be able to reassure them during the passage of the Bill.

The case for the Bill is totally clear: cigarettes are the product that, when used as the manufacturer intends, will go on to kill two thirds of its long-term users. That makes it different from eating at McDonald’s or even drinking—what was it?—a pint of wine, which one of my colleagues was suggesting. It is very, very different. Smoking causes 70% of lung cancer cases. It causes asthma in young people. It causes stillbirths, it causes dementia, disability and early death. I will give way on that cheery note.

Dan Poulter Portrait Dr Dan Poulter (Central Suffolk and North Ipswich) (Con)
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I thank the Minister for giving way. I draw the attention of the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests as a practising NHS consultant addiction psychiatrist. Does my right hon. Friend share my concern that what we have heard from the libertarian right today is a false equivalence between alcohol and bad dietary choices, and smoking, and that moderate alcohol and moderate bad eating are very different from moderate smoking, because moderate smoking kills. It means that people live on average 10 years less and it means less healthy lives. Does she agree that this is not about libertarianism but about doing the right thing, protecting public health and protecting the next generation, and that is why we should all support the Bill?

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who makes such a powerful point and speaks with such authority. Similar points were made by my hon. Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Dr Johnson), who as a paediatrician spoke with great expertise on this matter. It is absolutely true: it is a false choice. It is not a freedom of choice; it is a choice to become addicted and that then removes your choice.

Every year, more than 100,000 children aged between 11 and 15 light their first cigarette. What they can look forward to is a life of addiction to nicotine, spending thousands of pounds a year, making perhaps 30 attempts to quit, with all the misery that involves, and then experiencing life-limiting, entirely preventable suffering. Two thirds of them will die before their time. Some 83% of people start smoking before the age of 20, which is why we need to have the guts to create the first smoke-free generation across the United Kingdom, making sure that children turning 15 or younger this year will never be legally sold tobacco. That is the single biggest intervention that we can make to improve our nation’s health. Smoking is responsible for about 80,000 deaths every year, but it would still be worth taking action if the real figure were half that, or even a tenth of it.

There is also a strong economic case for the Bill. Every year, smoking costs our country at least £17 billion, far more than the £10 billion of tax revenue that it draws in. It costs our NHS and social care system £3 billion every year, with someone admitted to hospital with a smoking-related illness almost every minute of every day, and 75,000 GP appointments every week for smoking-related problems. That is a massive and totally preventable waste of resources. For those of us on this side of the House who are trying hard to increase access to the NHS and enable more patients to see their GPs, this is a really good target on which to focus. On the positive side, creating a smoke-free generation could deliver productivity gains of nearly £2 billion within a decade, potentially reaching £16 billion by 2056, improving work prospects, boosting efficiency and driving the economic growth that we need in order to pay for the first-class public services that we all want.

I know that hon. Members who oppose the Bill are doing so with the best of intentions. They argue that adults should be free to make their own decisions, and I get that. What we are urging them to do is make their own free decision to choose to be addicted to nicotine, but that is not in fact a choice, and I urge them to look at the facts. Children start smoking because of peer pressure, and because of persistent marketing telling them that it is cool. I know from experience how hard it is, once hooked, to kick the habit. I took up smoking at the age of 14. My little sister was 12 at the time, and we used to buy 10 No. 6 and a little book of matches and —yes—smoke behind the bicycle shed, and at the bus stop on the way home from school. [Interruption.] Yes, I know: I am outing myself here.

Having taken up smoking at the age of 14, I was smoking 40 a day by the age of 20, and as a 21st birthday present to myself I gave up. But today, 40 years later—I am now 60, so do the maths—with all this talk of smoking, I still feel like a fag sometimes. That is how addictive smoking is. This is not about freedom to choose; it is about freedom from addiction.

There is another angle. Those in the tobacco industry are, of course, issuing dire warnings of unintended consequences from the raising of the age of sale. They say that it will cause an explosion in the black market. That is exactly what they said when the age of sale rose from 16 to 18, but the opposite happened: the number of illicit cigarettes consumed fell by a quarter, and at the same time smoking rates among 16 and 17-year-olds in England fell by almost a third. Raising the age of sale is a tried and tested policy, and a policy that is supported not only by a majority of retailers—which, understandably, has been mentioned by a number of Members—but by more than 70% of the British public.

Tim Loughton Portrait Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con)
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If I had known that my right hon. Friend was such a keen smoker, I would not have recruited her to the Conservative party at the tender age of 18 when we were at university.

I have always taken a free-choice approach to health matters, and as shadow Children’s Minister I had to lead on both the tobacco advertising ban and the public smoking ban. We were wrong to oppose them. Who would now think it remotely normal for people to be able to smoke around us in restaurants and other public places? Does my right hon. Friend not agree that in a few years’ time this measure will seem just the same as banning smoking in public places, and people will ask why we did not do it earlier?

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As I have said ever since I met my hon. Friend at the age of 18, he is always right. I can never disagree with him.

I want to say a few even more furious words about vaping. It is just appalling to see vapes being deliberately marketed to children at pocket-money prices and in bright colours, with fun packaging and flavours like bubble gum and berry blast, and with the vape counter right next to the sweet counter.

Jake Berry Portrait Sir Jake Berry
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Before my right hon. Friend gets too furious about vaping, may I ask her to clarify two points on smoking? First, she said that because of the addictive nature of nicotine, it is extremely important that we stop people smoking from the age of 15. I do not support that, but if it is so important, why are we not starting at 17? It is already illegal for 17-year-olds to smoke. What is the magic of 15? If we really believe in the policy, why delay? Secondly, she spoke about her own experience, and I am a former smoker myself. She started smoking at 14, and I started smoking at about 14 as well. It was illegal when I started smoking at 14, but it did not stop me. I am a lawbreaker—how shocking. Why does she think that this ban on people starting smoking when under age will be different?

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for raising those really important points. As I will come on to, we will be putting £30 million of new money each year into trading standards and our enforcement agencies to clamp down on enforcement, and we are making it illegal to sell cigarettes to anybody turning 15 this year. He asks why. It is precisely because we are trying to bring in the Bill with a decent amount of notice so that people can prepare for it, precisely to protect retailers and allow all the sectors that will be impacted to be able to prepare.

I come back to the area where I am seriously on the warpath: targeting kids who might become addicted to nicotine vapes. I went to Hackney to visit some retail shops, where I saw the vape counters right next to the sweet counters. I saw that it is absolutely not about me—it is not about trying to stop me smoking. It is about trying to get children addicted through cynical, despicable methods. Sadly, for too many kids, vapes are already an incredible marketing success. One in five children aged between 11 and 17 have now used a vape, and the number has trebled in the last three years.

Kirsten Oswald Portrait Kirsten Oswald
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way as she ploughs through all of this. I wonder whether she can share her views on the advertising of vape products on sports kits and via sports facilities.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Lady is aware that there is already very restrictive advertising for smoking and vaping. We are very concerned that some advertising is breaching advertising standards regulations, and I will write to retailers specifically about that.

Parents and teachers are incredibly worried about the effect that vapes are having on developing lungs and brains. The truth is that we do not yet know what the long-term impact will be on children who vape. Since I was appointed, I have done everything I can to ensure that this Bill will protect our children. The Government’s position is clear: vaping is less harmful than smoking, but if you don’t smoke, don’t vape—and children should never vape.

We will definitely make sure that people who smoke today continue to have access to vapes as a quit aid, which will absolutely not change, but we cannot replace one generation that is hooked on nicotine in cigarettes with another that is hooked on nicotine in vapes. That is why we are using this Bill to take powers to restrict flavours and packaging, and to change how vapes are displayed in shops. To reassure the Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee and my right hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Sir Jake Berry), we plan to consult on that before the end of the Parliament, if practicable. The disposable vapes ban will likely take effect in April 2025—those regulations have already been published.

These are common-sense proposals that strike the right balance between helping retailers to prepare, giving sufficient notice and protecting children from getting hooked on nicotine, while at the same time supporting current smokers to quit by switching to vapes as a less harmful quit aid, supported by £138 million a year. Our approach is realistic for those who smoke now and resolute in protecting children. I am convinced that, just like banning smoking in indoor public places and raising the age of sale to 18, these measures will seem commonsensical to all of us in 10 years’ time. In decades to come, our great-grandchildren will look back and think: why on earth did they not do it sooner? I urge all right hon. and hon. Members to vote for this Bill as the biggest public intervention in history. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

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18:56

Division 123

Ayes: 383

Noes: 67

Bill read a Second time.

Tobacco and Vapes Bill (First sitting)

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
Committee stage
Tuesday 30th April 2024

(3 weeks ago)

Public Bill Committees
Tobacco and Vapes Bill 2023-24 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 30 April 2024 - (30 Apr 2024)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Tobacco and Vapes Bill 2023-24 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

None Portrait The Chair
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Minister—your questions.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Yes.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Could you talk us through ASH’s assessment of the economic cost to the UK economy of smoking? Secondly, what is your view on the importance of restricting vaping for children?

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Can we start with Sheila Duffy, please?

Sheila Duffy: In terms of a complete ban, you are talking about a ban on retail distribution of tobacco. The hope is that we will put it out of sight and out of fashion for the generation growing up. My preference is always to look at the product and the industry, rather than the consumer, so we need to maintain other issues like good fiscal policy, high price and tax.

On packaging and flavours, we know that the tobacco industry sold the sizzle on tobacco—it sold the image, it sold how it made people feel and it sold the very short-term-felt attractions and benefits. In the 1950s, people were recommended smoking to appear glamorous, to appear rugged and confident and to clear their chests in tuberculosis hospitals, and we did not know at that time how devastatingly harmful it was to health and how many years of life it would rob people of.

We must learn the lessons. It is the sizzle. It is the packaging, the marketing, the promotions that we must get on top of with vaping products, because that has driven the interest among young people, and the exponential —the doubling, tripling of regular use among children that were not smoking. There is a link between regular vaping and moving on to smoking, which I can send you the evidence for.

In terms of the economic cost, the World Bank looked at this years ago. Tobacco is not good value for any economy because the long-term costs are huge. What you are talking about is privatising the profit but socialising the costs, and that is a huge burden on the NHS and a huge burden on people’s lives. It undermines their health and the health of their families.

The final question was on the importance of restricting e-cigarettes for children. Well, let us learn the lessons from tobacco and let us take some strong steps to stop the next generation becoming addicted. I note that the devices mainly being used under-age and by children are of the highest permitted nicotine level. They are advertised with bright colours—cartoon characters in some places. They are absolutely all over social media and there is money going into influencing. These are being targeted. We are not talking about medicinal use. We are talking about recreational products, which are addictive and health-harming. We have to get on top of this.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

In view of the pressure on time, I ask the two other witnesses, if they agree with what has already been said, to say so and then make any additional points that need to be made. Obviously, if you do not agree, that changes the nature of it.

Deborah Arnott: I agree with the points being made. On the costs of smoking, the Minister has cited our figures to date—thank you for that. We have done a lot of work on this. New figures will be published next week, so we will give an update on those and on what additional costs we think there are, other than the ones that have been taken into account by the Government so far. That will be available for the Committee, too.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Would you state your latest research for the record, though? Obviously, this Committee is here to provide the evidence on the record.

Deborah Arnott: I would rather not summarise it now, but it will come very quickly and we can provide it to the Committee in advance of publication, so the Committee will get the full details.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Thank you.

Deborah Arnott: I would like to go on to talk about Preet’s question about clauses 61 and 62, and I would also like to talk about clause 63, because they are the ones that are absolutely crucial to prevent vapes from appealing to children.

I do not know whether I am allowed to do this, but I will show the Committee these things. This is a completely reusable vape and this is a completely disposable vape. They look almost identical and they are the same price. The disposable vapes ban being implemented by DEFRA will get rid of disposable vapes—

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None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

We will also take the Minister, and then we can answer both sets of questions together.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am also interested in the impact of smoking and vaping on children’s hearts and lungs in particular. I would very much appreciate hearing the professional assessment of you both of the particular vulnerability of children’s lungs and hearts, as compared with adults. I know that the Opposition spokesman and I share that grave concern, as do a number of colleagues. My second question is: do you expect the smoke-free generation policy to stop young people starting smoking?

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

I do not know which order you want to take the questions in.

Dr Griffiths: I am happy for us to do a double act between us.

Thank you for such clear questions. In terms of inequality, we know that the burden of smoking falls unevenly. We have a third more smokers in the third most deprived areas, so it affects people’s health unequally. Heart disease is the world’s biggest killer, and there is absolutely no doubt that smoking is one of the major drivers of cardiovascular disease, so the picture is clear and very well established from an inequalities point of view.

In terms of young people, we share your concern at the British Heart Foundation. It scares me to think that, today, 350 young people will start smoking for the first time—and the same tomorrow and the day after, and the day after that. We know that a huge proportion of them go on to become long-term smokers. Tragically, we see the burden and the cost to life and quality of life that that causes, with about 15,000 deaths every year across the UK from heart and circulatory disease associated with tobacco. So, we are deeply worried about people starting, and it is not just us at the British Heart Foundation who are worried. We know that the majority of smokers wish they had never started, but nicotine is an incredibly addictive substance. Once people have started, it is incredibly difficult to stop, so we share your concern.

Just to cover two things on the biology, the way that smoking is so damaging to our hearts and circulatory system is manifold. It damages the lining of our circulatory system, causing our arteries to clog up with fatty deposits, which puts us at an incredibly high risk of heart attacks and strokes. We know that a smoker’s risk of having a heart attack is double that of someone who does not smoke. For stroke, the risk is three times greater, but if someone smokes 20 cigarettes a day, they are six times more likely to have a stroke. So, there is really clear evidence on the biology that smoking is damaging.

We are deeply worried about young people starting, which is where the power of this Bill comes in. What an opportunity to create, for the first time, a smoke-free generation, relieving tens or hundreds of thousands of people from the risk of death and disability from smoking. We, as the BHF, would urge for the Bill to be pushed through in full.

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Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
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Q I asked a specific question about children’s asthma and children’s heart damage. Could I urge our witnesses to respond to that question?

Dr Griffiths: Thank you, and apologies if we did not cover that as clearly as we could have. Obviously, there is no such thing as a safe cigarette, there is no safe number of cigarettes to smoke, and there is no safe age to start smoking at all. We would emphasise our concern for children starting to smoke, because the damage starts as soon as you start smoking. There is no safe number of cigarettes to smoke. Combined with that, the fact that nicotine is so addictive that it leads to most people—over two thirds of those who start—becoming long-term smokers, worries us enormously. In terms of both the risk and the damage of starting smoking, the number of people who start and the fact that they go on to adopt a lifelong smoking habit caused by nicotine is of deep concern to us.

Sarah Sleet: It is worth thinking about children’s wider environment. Children who live in households where the adults smoke are four times more likely to smoke themselves, and find it much harder to give up. Children are getting into a cycle of deprivation and damage to their long-term health right from the very beginning. For children, stopping smoking availability is going to be profoundly helpful for their future lives, their ability to contribute to the economy and their overall prospects. This Bill, which tackles the issue from childhood up, will be one of the most profoundly important health interventions that you can make.

Preet Kaur Gill Portrait Preet Kaur Gill
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I think the Minister was referring to vapes and the evidence based around the impact on growing lungs and hearts. Is there anything you would like to say about that before we move on?

Dr Griffiths: As Deborah from ASH said, vapes are a fairly new product, so the research and evidence base, which we have in abundance for tobacco and smoking, is still forming for vaping. However, there are indications that it is not great for health. We are cautious and worried about the long-term implications. What we do know is that vaping can be an important cessation tool for those trying to quit smoking, and that many do want to quit, so we strongly encourage anything that stops smoking, but the people who are turning to vaping as an alternative to smoking for the first time is of deep concern to us. We do not understand the long-term health implications, but the addiction to nicotine deeply concerns us.

Sarah Sleet: We strongly agree. It is a very delicate balancing act between stopping the harm caused by smoking and looking to the long-term with regard to vaping. Quite clearly, smoking is far more damaging for adults and children. Anything that can steer people away from smoking will be healthier than continuing to smoke in the long run, but we do recognise that more attention and more research need to be put into vaping.

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None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

I am going to take the Minister at this point, and then Preet Kaur Gill.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Some people say that the smoking generation does not need to be raised a year higher every single year. Can you say for the record what your view is of that? Does it need to keep lifting each year?

Dr Griffiths: We support the Bill exactly as it is written at the moment. It is really important to recognise that, as proposed, it does not inhibit anybody who is currently a smoker from purchasing tobacco, but it does take us on a really clear and, I believe, a transformative path to a smoke-free generation.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I understand that, but why?

Dr Griffiths: Because it is a really clear path to make sure that we move to a situation where we have a generation that is prohibited from buying cigarettes, and who are disincentivised from doing so.

Sarah Sleet: We have heard today the evidence about just how harmful and destructive smoking is, particularly for people in more deprived areas. If we really want to tackle that, we need to remove smoking as a normalised, available, legal option going forward. This seems to me a very measured and thoughtful way of introducing a smoking ban that will take hold. It is very important for our children going forward.

Preet Kaur Gill Portrait Preet Kaur Gill
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I want to ask about the information that is given to parents, especially if their children have never smoked but have taken up vaping. We know that a generation of children is becoming addicted to nicotine because products that have been classified as 0% nicotine do actually contain it. One of the parents that I spoke to asked, “Well, how many puffs are there in one vape? If my child has two or three of those in a day, what does that actually mean?” It is about the information on that sort of risk, and how we share that information with parents who are trying to address this issue with their children. Is there anything you want to say about that, and is there any research being done to look at that?

Dr Griffiths: I would observe that there is so much variation between products and how people are consuming them. I think it is quite difficult to give advice in a standard way, and that it is part of it being an emergent product and market. As we have discussed, there is no doubt that, with nicotine being so deeply addictive, it is an incredible worry that a child has a single puff on a vape, given the potency of nicotine and where we know it leads people, having seen that over generations with smoking.

I should perhaps take a moment to emphasise that we also really support the £70 million investment being allocated to public health campaigning and cessation services, as well as enforcement. You are right that we need to be really clear with the messaging of the Bill to encourage support from parents and others around children in particular. We really applaud the decision to put resourcing behind this as well. We know that effective public campaigning can be an incredibly powerful tool. We were really proud to run the “Give Up Before You Clog Up” fatty cigarette campaign way back 20 years ago, and we know even that campaign led to 14,000 smokers seeking to quit. We know public campaigning works, and it was a great thought to allocate that resource as part of this work—it will be needed.

Sarah Sleet: The variation in nicotine levels and the method of delivery, which affects the uptake of the nicotine, is undoubtedly very concerning in vapes. I am a mother of three adult children who all vape, and I am very concerned about how often they are doing that and what impact that is having. We must also remember that, from what we know at the moment, it would appear that smoking is far and away the most damaging activity, compared with vaping. There is a little bit of concern that we overemphasise the harms of vaping to the extent that people say, “Well, I might as well smoke then. I’ll do that instead.” We need to be very careful about how we have this conversation.

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Preet Kaur Gill Portrait Preet Kaur Gill
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Thank you, Chair, and I thank the witnesses for giving evidence today. First, is under-age smoking or vaping the bigger issue in schools today, and what is the impact on education, behaviour and so on? Secondly, will the measures in the Bill to restrict sales of vaping products to children under 18 work, in your opinion?

Matthew Shanks: It is an interesting question, whether vaping or smoking is more popular among children in schools. All I can say is that it has increased in the past three or four years. We see evidence of vaping; it is more difficult to catch children vaping, because of the size of the vapes, the fact that the smell is slightly different and does not set off smoke alarms in the same way, and so on. I think it is fair to say that smoking and vaping are still as popular as they were among younger children in certain areas, and vaping is being seen to be a safe alternative.

The marketing of vapes in different flavours and colours makes them akin to a progression from chewing gum for some families—with bubble gum flavours and so on. There is also anecdotal evidence of parents talking about, “If it’s grapefruit, it must be safe.” There is that evidence around it as well out there—because of the way in which vapes are marketed, and if you see them in shops, they seem safe and okay.

With behaviour, the size of vapes makes it very difficult to admonish children, because they can hide them very easily. They can look like mini hard drive sticks—I think that is deliberate targeting in how they are marketed, with the cleverness of it. Certainly in terms of behaviour, it is something else that we are dealing with, when we say to a child, a teenager, “You’ve been vaping”, but they say, “No, I haven’t”—there is nowhere for us then to go, which immediately sets up an issue.

The earlier question about toilets was interesting, because children tend to vape in toilets. It is easier for them to vape in toilets than it was for them to smoke in toilets. You just need to see people on public transport vaping—it is easy for it to dissipate and disappear quickly. So, yes, I would say that vaping is a real issue in schools for children.

Patrick Roach: I support fully what Matthew has just said. I do not think that it is an either/or; the reality is that smoking is a threat to children and young people, in terms of their health and wellbeing and their ability to participate and progress educationally, but so too is vaping.

The NASUWT, at the start of this academic year, published our own research into vaping in schools from the perspective of teachers and school leaders, and it very much reinforces what Matthew has just said, in that vaping is pretty much predominant as an activity taking place among secondary-aged pupils. But we are also seeing teachers reporting pupils vaping from as early as 10 years of age, so the primary phase is also impacted. Three quarters of teachers report a significant increase in the participation in vaping by pupils in their schools, so we are seeing an upward curve in respect of vaping activity within schools.

On the issues that have just been mentioned about the difficulty that schools have in detecting and controlling this kind of behaviour, the way in which vape products are available to pupils is that they are masquerading as hard drives, as highlighter sticks or as other things that it would be legitimate for a pupil to bring into school. This is not like a situation in which you catch a pupil with a packet of cigarettes and you confiscate it; first, you have to identify what on earth it is that that pupil has. At the end of the day, good order in schools is dependent upon there being trust and respectful relationships between teachers and students. You cannot go around every moment of every day asking pupils to turn out their pockets and then inspecting what is in them.

The reality is that we are seeing the impact of vaping not just on pupils’ health, because we are seeing pupils who are presenting as ill as a result of the overuse of vaping products—although, in fact, all of it is overuse—and therefore becoming ill in schools, but on educational participation, progression and achievement. When pupils are diving off into the toilets to vape, that interrupts teaching and learning. When pupils are late arriving at school, perhaps because they have been vaping en route, that impacts on pupils’ learning. We are also seeing bullying behaviours within schools because, quite often, vaping products are being informally circulated, exchanged or acquired. Therefore, it becomes another source of behavioural challenges for teachers and head teachers. So, from a teacher’s perspective, vaping is a serious issue within schools, and one that we are pleased that this Bill is seeking to address.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
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Q Thank you so much for being here, and also particularly for the work that the NASUWT has done in terms of the impact on schools. Could you expand on that a bit further? I have done a couple of visits ahead of this Bill. I met enforcement officers, for example, who gave me anecdotal evidence that teachers say that pupils will return to the classroom with their eyes spinning and unable to concentrate because of the heady nature of whatever it is they have just been vaping or smoking. There was another anecdote about a school where children decided to drink the vape fluid and the school actually had to have a sort of emergency evacuation as a result of that.

Could you therefore expand on that, in terms of the specific health impacts and, at the one end, the ability of children to concentrate on the class when they are spaced out on vapes, and, at the other end, the very real risk to children from doing something stupid with a vape that was entirely unintended, with disastrous consequences?

Patrick Roach: I very much appreciate your remarks about the research that the NASUWT has undertaken. We come at the problem of vaping from the point of view of our members in classrooms, in schools the length and breadth of the country. What do teachers need in order to be able to teach effectively and what do they believe that pupils need in order to learn effectively? They need good order in the classroom.

My perspective is not that of a medical practitioner or of someone wanting to assume that I have the knowledge about the impact of vaping on a child’s physical development. Our concern is the impact on a child’s educational development, participation and achievement. The reality is that everything you have mentioned there is absolutely right, whether it is about the way in which vaping products might be unintentionally used by pupils; or about how they seek to conceal them about their person; or, indeed, the drinking of vaping fluids, as if somehow that will get the high without necessarily being detected; or about the use of vaping products as a stimulant, which impacts not only on concentration but on behaviour and, indeed, on a child’s wellbeing in the classroom.

Matthew has already referenced the difficulty of detecting vapes sometimes, because they can dissipate very quickly; and they can also trigger fire alarms in schools. We have had plenty of examples of teachers and headteachers reporting that their school has had to evacuate the building not just on one or two occasions in a day but multiple times—five or six occasions. That is a loss of learning not just for one pupil or class of pupils but the entire school. We are really concerned about the impact of all that.

Teachers are not just concerned about a child’s educational development, though; they are also concerned about a child’s wellbeing in the round. Teachers are reporting the very damaging impact that vaping can have on a child’s mental and physical development, just as smoking can. That is one of the reasons we have spoken out—and we are pleased that the Government have responded—to say that we need to be doing more to strengthen the enforcement of rules around vaping, access to it and the availability for school-age pupils. We need to do as much as we possibly can to prevent any school-age pupil from getting access to vaping products, whether in or outside school. We are pleased that the Bill seeks to do just that.

Matthew Shanks: I absolutely echo and reinforce what Patrick has said. Also, as school leaders we are looking after teachers, but we are caring for families as well. The Bill will help families to understand that it is not okay for their children to vape. Anecdotally we have parents saying to us that they let children vape at home, because it is better than them smoking or being out on the streets; parents do not see the harm in it. It is really important that that is recognised. The banning of tobacco sale was interesting in terms of the prescription of it; I would posit that at the moment vaping is seen as safe by the general public.

Kirsten Oswald Portrait Kirsten Oswald
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Q I wonder if you can develop some of the points you have made, which have been very useful. I am hearing anecdotally about issues in schools where the addiction of children to these vapes is itself causing a problem, because the children are unable to sit in the classroom and have to go out to vape, with whatever excuse is made, so that they then feel able to come back to the classroom, such is the level of their addiction to these products. If I may go beyond that slightly, what are your views on the way these things are promoted—for instance, on our particular concern about vape companies advertising on sports strips and in sports stadiums, and the impact on the same young people who are so addicted?

Matthew Shanks: I completely agree. The way in which vapes are marketed—the colours, flavours and so on—and the places where they are marketed suggest to people that they are safe. The fact that they are put forward as a “safe” alternative to cigarettes, the fact that parents use them and the fact that there are lots of colourful vape shops open in high streets: all those aspects promote the idea that vaping is okay.

At the same time, getting into a child’s mindset—we have all been there, as children—we like to break the rules and feel like we are pushing at boundaries. We know that it is not okay, but it is made okay. I would suggest that more children engage in vaping than in cigarette smoking, because they are not sure what the harmful effects are. That is the danger in it. I do think it leads on, because the younger children vape, but by the time they are 16 or 17, vaping might not be cool any more, so they go on to cigarettes or other things.

Anecdotally, we have heard of schools down in the south-west where people are putting cannabis into the vapes, so the addiction grows from that point of view as well. It leads to children coming out of lessons agitated. If I did not have three coffees in the morning, my agitation would be quite high. If children are not getting nicotine, as well as going through all the other things they are going through, they really do present as confrontational to staff, which makes it difficult to deal with them in classrooms and engage them in their learning. At the same time, to repeat a point I made earlier, you have parents at home who are saying, “Well, it’s okay to do.” I absolutely concur about the way it is marketed and so on.

Patrick Roach: To add to that, because those are important points: vape producers and manufacturers, and indeed those supplying vapes, are advertising freely in ways that make their products increasingly attractive to children and young people, with the way vapes are advertised and the marketing descriptors used for them. All the evidence we have, and certainly what our members tell us—our survey was of 4,000 teachers, so this is not anecdotal; it has an impact right across the system— suggests that the way those products are marketed and described deliberately seeks to entice young people to make use of them.

We believe that this is a strong Bill that very clearly sets out the societal expectations in this space, but as with any legislation, there is always scope for loopholes. If there are areas in the Bill where there is potential to further strengthen the legislation, I think the enticing way products are described, before an individual understands what they are getting themselves into, is something that needs to be considered and addressed.

From our point of view, it is about advertising, but it is also about access to these products. With the best will in the world, and no matter how they are advertised, if the products are easily available at the point of sale it makes things incredibly difficult. I remember that when I was bringing up my own children I worried about going to the supermarket with them, because they would be surrounded by candy and sweet products at the checkouts. You could not navigate your way through the checkouts. Thankfully, things have moved on: that has changed, and many parents are benefiting from those changes.

Young people are very much interacting with many of these products at the point of sale. They are in the shops that are in the vicinity of or on the route to and from school. They are being marketed in places that young people will frequent, whether that be a local café, the hairdressers or the barbers. They are in places where young people will be. They are also immediately available. The more we can do to stop the immediacy of marketing of these products and that easy availability, no matter how they are described, the better.

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Preet Kaur Gill Portrait Preet Kaur Gill
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Q Welcome, Paul. It is good to have you here. My first question is simple and straightforward: what is Age UK’s view on the Bill?

My second question is this. I know that over-65s are much less likely to smoke. I have a constituent, Eric, who has suffered from a stroke and has suffered with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and is now a tobacco campaigner in his 80s. Why is this Bill important to the people Age UK works with?

Paul Farmer: Age UK fully supports the proposed legislation, and we have been working alongside the Richmond Group of Charities to highlight the significant health benefits of phasing out smoking, which will help individuals and have a wider impact on society. It will have particular benefits for the NHS, which as we know faces significant challenges at the moment.

Our job at Age UK is to think about not just the health and wellbeing of older people as they are now—I will come to your second question in a moment—but issues affecting future generations of older people. This is quite a rare opportunity for us to have a significant impact on those future generations for reasons we will look at later.

It is worth noting, however, that this Bill is heavily supported by older people. Polling shows that 69% of over-65s support it. Why is that? That goes to your second question. We know from older people and the work we are currently doing that health and wellbeing in later life is pretty much the top priority for older people. Age UK has recently published our blueprint for older people for the next few years, as we enter an election year. It is very clear from the work we have done with older people that health and wellbeing is right at the heart of what is most important for people.

Of course, that is logical: the ability to feel well, remain active and maintain our independence is a major determinant of the quality of life that we aspire to in later life. We also know that there is a huge gulf in life expectancy and life experiences between those who have the opportunity to age well and those who do not. I will not go into the points your earlier witnesses made about the importance of healthy life expectancy in detail, but that is right at the heart of older people’s considerations. It is important that we do something about the fact that healthy life expectancy for those who are most disadvantaged is quite so stark.

How does that affect smoking? As you know, smoking is a leading cause of death and disability. It is responsible for half the difference in healthy life expectancy between the most and the least affluent communities. People living in the areas with the lowest healthy life expectancy are 1.7 times more likely to smoke than those living in the highest healthy life expectancy areas. These are fundamental reasons why the intervention of this legislation will make a difference.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
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Q I really appreciate your being here—thank you. I would like to tackle the fact that young people tend not to consider either their own mortality or their health and wellbeing. The majority of young people tend to take those for granted, and yet there is a complete correlation: the age at which you take up smoking—or, indeed, vaping—is when you are young and feel pretty immortal, or are at least not concerned about later life.

Could you give us a view, as an Age UK representative, of the sort of advice that older people who have smoked all their lives and are now bearing the brunt of the decisions they took would give to those who argue, “It’s a matter of personal choice. Everyone should be free to smoke if they want”? What would an older person say to that young person?

Paul Farmer: I think a lot of people would say that they wish they had never started. Those are certainly the conversations we have been having with older people in preparation for this session. The reason for that is that, as you enter into your later life, you start to understand the consequences of smoking through your personal experience. The list is frightening.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q For the record, can you outline some of those experiences? Obviously this is a public evidence session and we are looking to make the strong case for this Bill.

Paul Farmer: Very clearly, there is the relationship between smoking and multiple forms of cancer, COPD, pneumonia, heart disease, aortic aneurysm and stroke, vascular diseases, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, hip fracture, cataract and macular degeneration—and dementia. In a society where we are increasingly debating dementia’s impact, I think the relationship between smoking and dementia is a really important context.

These are in and of themselves very challenging physical health conditions, but we can also see the correlation with people who experience multiple long-term conditions. I think many older people who experience those multiple long-term conditions—who have to live with the impact of them often because they smoked in their early life—would say this impacts on the individual being able to do the things they want to do in their later life. There is a severe detriment on pursuing their ambitions of later life as a result of having smoked in earlier years.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
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My last point: may I just pursue that—

None Portrait The Chair
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Very briefly.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
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Q Thank you. Would that older person suffering those consequences say: “Yes, it was all a matter of free choice”?

Paul Farmer: I think different people will have different opinions about choice, and whether it was as a result of choice. I think what many older people have been telling us is that if they had known about the damaging consequences of smoking, they would not have started in the first place and would certainly have considered it in a greater way.

I want to pay huge tribute to colleagues at British Heart Foundation, who I know you have just heard from, who I think have taken the best way of trying to campaign over a long term on this issue. This is a long-term issue. Sadly today’s generation of older people is seeing the consequences of what has not happened.

Kirsten Oswald Portrait Kirsten Oswald
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Q Could you explain who “older people” are? Sadly, I recently recognised that that might include more of us than we might like to believe. We need to take that on board. What I am really interested in are the different demographic groups, and where you think there might be disproportionate levels of harm from tobacco and vaping within the groups of older people that you support.

Paul Farmer: We work with people over the age of 50, which may be news to some of you here. One of the reasons why we have recently chosen to drop the age group that we increasingly work with is precisely for prevention and early intervention.

This is not the earliest intervention; you can, of course, argue that many health interventions need to take place among children and younger people. However, from an Age UK point of view, we know that there is potential to intervene in people’s lives and support them to live healthier lives—it is not just about health, but in this context it is mainly about health—which means that your healthy life expectancy can improve and, as I mentioned earlier, you can fulfil some of the ambitions of your later life. The burden on the NHS of unhealthy life expectancy is a big issue.

The bulk of our direct work is with people over pensionable age, if you like. In each of those generations, you see the differences in experiences of smoking. Somebody now in their 80s or 90s almost certainly will not be alive if they are a heavier smoker, because they probably will not have benefited from any of the public health information that has taken place under previous Governments, so that is obviously the major difference.

In terms of the different health conditions, we know that certain health conditions will increase with age. Dementia is the greatest example of that, where we know that the older you are, the more likely you are to develop dementia. In a sense, as our population as a whole has gotten healthier and lived longer, it has become increasingly apparent where those health inequalities are at their most acute.

Tobacco and Vapes Bill (Second sitting)

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

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Committee stage
Tuesday 30th April 2024

(3 weeks ago)

Public Bill Committees
Tobacco and Vapes Bill 2023-24 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 30 April 2024 - (30 Apr 2024)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Tobacco and Vapes Bill 2023-24 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Preet Kaur Gill Portrait Preet Kaur Gill
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q In what circumstances do you envision that local enforcement would not be enough and the Secretary of State would need to use the powers to intervene granted to her by the Bill? That is in clause 64.

Cllr Fothergill: We fully support the local penalty notice being issued by the councils. We believe that that is the right way to go and that it will not clog the courts, but there is always the option to refer to the magistrates court if required. Our big concern is the size of the fine, which we believe needs to be reviewed: £100 or, if paid within 14 days, £50 is hardly a penalty. We argue that we need to have greater opportunity to fine those in contravention of the law. Then, we believe, there would be less and less need for the Secretary of State to be involved. The reason he or she would need to be involved is if we cannot contain it—because we cannot issue enough penalty notices to contain it locally.

Greg Fell: A similar issue would be multi-local authority enforcement scenarios. We know that organised crime networks are not linked to an individual area, so it stands to reason that there will be a need for enforcement that cuts across many authority areas, hence there is a need for networked trading standards. That might also include, possibly, the borders—stopping the imports of illegal vapes and tobacco.

Additionally, as Councillor Fothergill said, we are concerned about the size of the fine. Certainly I hear through DPH parochially, who talk to their trading standards and licensing teams, that when there is a much larger fine that may or may not be linked to the removal of an alcohol licence, that will make a retailer really sit up and think.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Dame Andrea Leadsom)
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Q I appreciate you being here. Can you give me an idea of the LGA’s view of a licensing regime? That is not proposed in the Bill, but some people say that licensing would be a better alternative than the measures we are proposing here.

Cllr Fothergill: Certainly. Although we fully support the Bill, we think there could be one or two changes, which I have already referred to—we would like to see amendments—and there is the option of a licensing scheme, which we would support. If it was done on a similar basis to liquor licensing, we would be able to enforce that, because it would be backed by legislation. Of course, we would need to make sure that trading standards were fully funded for that. We would support that, if it was something that the Government brought forward.

Greg Fell: I cannot speak for the LGA’s position; ADPH does not have a formal view on licensing. I would broadly support it, but there is a danger that putting that into the mix delays getting the Bill through Parliament and turned into an Act, and getting the Bill through Parliament is arguably the most important thing.

I would broadly support that, but I come back to the complexity. Vapes are sold in hairdressers and beauty parlours and so on, so we would need to think it through. Arguably, if we are going to get into a licensing scheme, that should be for tobacco and nicotine-containing products, not just vapes; I would personally go to tobacco as well. Critically, the resourcing to make it work properly would need some very careful thought and consideration. All of that would need to be in the mix, but broadly I would support it, with those caveats.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
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Q You have already said that you do not think the penalties are high enough, but do you think that the enforcement rules as they are, with the proposals to change the packaging, move the location of vapes and so on, will make it easier or harder to enforce? Do you think that enforcement officers will have sufficient time to train and gear up to meet the challenge of the legislation?

Cllr Fothergill: Specifically on vaping, we support the move to plain packaging, moving them away from the counter and restricting flavours—we support all those things. I have to say that we recognise the role of vaping in helping people to give up smoking, but where children and younger people are involved, we want to move the vapes away and make them less accessible. Trading standards will enforce that, as long as there are clear definitions of what can be sold, where it can be sold and who it can be sold to. A lot of the work that they do is evidence-led, so they will work on people who are giving them tip-offs or where they are seeing that there is a trend in an area where those products are being sold. As long as we are resourced and we recognise that a lot of that evidence-led work is required, it is entirely achievable.

Greg Fell: I have a fairly similar view. Largely, trading standards do this work now. The easier and simpler we can make it, and the more we make sure that it is resourced appropriately, the better, but they largely do this job now pretty well.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op)
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Q My question is for Greg Fell. The clarity and simplicity of knowing where you can smoke has meant that the universal principle of that bar has largely been applied, but it has not applied to vaping to date. Given that vapes contain not just nicotine but cannabis, Spice and other illicit substances, should the same restrictions be applied to vaping?

Greg Fell: Hopefully only illegal vapes contain cannabis or Spice, and not legally produced ones—I sincerely hope that is the case. I have mixed views on vaping in public. I think that Prof McNeill will talk later this afternoon. It is worth reading her evidence review for the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, which has a whole chapter on the passive inhalation of vapes. The ADPH does not have an official position on the passive inhalation of vapes, but my personal view is that in open spaces I am not too worried about it. In enclosed spaces, I might be, particularly for people who have pre-existing respiratory conditions, but I do not think that the evidence supports it being as big an issue as people think. However, that is definitely a question for Prof McNeill, who is the expert on such matters.

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Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman
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I think we should have one.

Cllr Fothergill: I agree.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
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Q You made a very good case for the age of sale rising each year, but as the LGA, do you think that will be tricky for enforcement purposes? An argument is often made that if you were 40 and I was 41, we would go into a store and I would have to buy your cigarettes for you. What would you say to that as an argument for continuing with the smoke-free generation legislation?

Cllr Fothergill: We have to be very careful that we do not spook ourselves out of doing something that is absolutely right. If people get to the age of 40 and have to show that they are 40 to be able to buy cigarettes, that is what they should do. I am sorry to say that I am 67. I have to show a bus pass every time I get on a bus to show that I am old enough to travel for free.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

You don’t look it.

Cllr Fothergill: Thank you very much—I’ll take that.

At every stage in life, you are asked for verification, and this is just another time. It should not stop us from doing the right thing and moving the age up so that we eventually achieve a smoke-free population.

Greg Fell: It is a long time since I have been asked my age. It may throw up some tricky moments, but as Councillor Fothergill said, let’s not stop ourselves doing the right thing here. I think most people agree that it is broadly the right thing. The Bill itself is massively important for norm-setting. Even if the norm-setting achieves half of the goal, thousands of lives will still be saved.

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None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Greg, before I bring Andrea in again, you do not look 67 either. I want to get that on the record.

Greg Fell: Not a day over 25, Chair.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I beg people to ask me my age when I am buying a drink, and they just will not.

The additional things—heated tobacco, shisha and so on—that come under this legislation include cigarette papers. We all know that they can be used for rolling joints and other purposes, and that cigarette papers contain carcinogens. However, some have quite a strong desire to exclude them—I do not know why. What is the view of the LGA and ADPH on that point?

Cllr Fothergill: We believe that the scope of the Bill as it is currently written is right, and that is what we would support. We would not want to see anything excluded. Every time there is a change to smoking legislation, we hear the argument that it will increase the amount of illicit trade coming into the country. That is not a reason not to do it. It is our responsibility as trading standards to enforce, and although people always use that argument, we have to do the right thing and enforce by properly funding trading standards.

Greg Fell: If I had £1 for every time I have heard the illicit trade argument, neither of us would be here. The heat-not-burn—the clue is in the title—is a tobacco product, and I would treat it like a tobacco product. It may be safer than burned tobacco—we do not know. I would like to see some independent research. However, I would not delay the Bill until I see independent research. I would personally argue to not allow exclusions. It may seem much harder to enforce, but there will already be some tricky points in enforcement; we already know that we need to resource that properly. I would keep the simplicity and not allow exclusions.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

We have two minutes left. Is anyone burning to ask the last question? We have had very clear evidence and it has been an excellent session, but is anyone sitting on a question they have not yet asked?

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Preet Kaur Gill Portrait Preet Kaur Gill
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q My first question to you is, what is the impact of tobacco smoking on public health? Secondly, do you think the Bill’s measures to prevent vaping products from being sold to children will be successful? That is essentially clauses 61 and 62.

Ailsa Rutter: Tobacco is devastating. It is devastating to every individual who dies way too young, and to the family who lose their loved one. In my region alone, just since the turn of the millennium, 120,000 of our loved ones have died from smoking. It is not an adult choice, but a childhood addiction. The vast majority of those smokers reach a point where they deeply regret having got hooked in childhood, not thinking that first puff on a cigarette would be so addictive. It is really important that we remember the 6.4 million remaining smokers in the UK and the fact that 350 18 to 24-year-olds will get hooked on lethal tobacco smoking today.

I would like the Committee to imagine that cigarettes did not exist. It is 2024, and here we are discussing a product that is designed to hook, kill, maim, and be completely addictive. This discussion today needs to be about the future world we want to strive for. We can talk a lot about how we will enforce it, which is very important, but for me this is about imagining that in 20 years’ time we have created an entire new generation protected from this uniquely lethal product. That is why in the north-east, all 12 local authorities, all 10 NHS trusts, our integrated care board—the biggest in the country—and our Association of Directors of Public Health have given whole-hearted, unanimous support to the “stopping the start” proposal on the age of sale of tobacco.

We absolutely recognise that smoking is much more harmful than vaping, but vaping is not risk-free. Vaping is playing a pivotal role in our region—with our higher levels of deprivation and addiction—to get people off lethal smoking, but that is not to say that we do not absolutely agree that much more needs to be done to reduce the appeal of vaping to young people. We wholeheartedly believe that we must address the inappropriate packaging that is too youth-friendly. Some of the in-store promotions are completely inappropriate, where children are really noticing it. We must ensure that we recognise that children are growing up within a family context; children do not live in isolation. There is also the importance in our region of sending clear, evidenced-based messaging. We can also see the positive impact on children’s health if we can get the parents and carers off lethal tobacco smoking and if we can reduce second-hand smoke harm. Really important as well is more money in people’s pockets, because cigarette smoking has such a negative effect on your income.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Thank you so much for being here and for all you do in the north-east. It is fantastic.

As you will know, rates of smoking during pregnancy in the north-east are some of the highest in the country. Do you think this legislation will help to reduce those very high numbers? The rate is somewhere in the region of 14% in the north-east.

Ailsa Rutter: We have made really good progress in the north-east in reducing maternal smoking; that has come through very good collaboration between our local maternity services and our local authorities, as well as the fantastic leadership from key people in the local maternity and neonatal system, the LMNS, and the direction from directors of public health.

As with anything, there is not one magic solution; it is about taking comprehensive measures. The tobacco age of sale increase will undoubtedly have a really positive impact on reducing maternal smoking. It needs to be coupled with important things that we must continue to do as well, so we also welcome the increased investment for stop-smoking services.

We hugely welcome—thank you—the reinvestment in the evidence-based health harms campaigns. We are thrilled that nationally you are using our fantastic “smoking survivors” TV advert featuring Sue Mountain. The role of financial incentives is also really important; we know that they have a very strong evidence base. This will have a positive impact on maternal smoking.

Nickie Aiken Portrait Nickie Aiken
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q If there was one thing you could add to this Bill, what would it be?

Ailsa Rutter: Gosh! There are already some fantastic elements in the Bill. The key thing for me is to make sure that we can get the Bill through—particularly the focus on tobacco. It is really good to think that there is going to be subsequent consultation on the important elements around vaping. Factoring in what colleagues said previously, we need a simple mandatory age verification scheme. That is already in place in Scotland, and I would certainly welcome its introduction in England.

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Caroline Johnson Portrait Dr Johnson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I want to ask you about the licensing regime. You have to have a licence to sell alcohol and tobacco, and some have suggested that you should have to have a licence to sell nicotine full stop because it is an addictive substance. That would mean that you would need to have a licence to sell vapes, partly as a way of making them less accessible to children in the places that they may be sold. Would you support that?

Adrian Simpson: It is not an issue that we have discussed at any length in the British Retail Consortium. We are aware, of course, that there are parts of the UK where licensing is required for certain tobacco products. We are well used to the alcohol licensing that has been going on for many years. Unfortunately, I cannot comment on whether the whole sector would be in support of that. We would perhaps need to see how a potential licensing system would operate before we gave our full support to it.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Thank you so much for being here. You will be aware that, in putting together legislation, huge effort is made to be balanced and not excessive and to make it doable and achievable, nowhere more so than for those who are trying to enforce it.

May I press you a bit further on the point that Preet made about whether the fines are sufficient? You have said that it is a bit complicated and will require some lead-in time—which is obviously provided, with the 2027 date—to give appropriate training to shop staff. The quantum of the fine was intended to enable on-the-spot fines, rather than having lengthy litigation because the person who incurs the fine does not have the cash and needs to go away, may or may not pay it, may or may not have to be pursued, may or may not have to go to court, and so on. Understanding that there are different views on all sides, is the balance just about right or, if you could have put your own wish list together, are there things that you would have done differently?

Adrian Simpson: We would have liked to see more education provided to retailers who might have broken the rules. A fine can be life-changing for someone who is given one, so we like to see whether there might be a way around that; perhaps the shop worker could be educated first, rather than going straight to a fine, if at all possible. We would like to see that balance of education before strict enforcement, if possible. That would be our wish.

Steve Tuckwell Portrait Steve Tuckwell
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Thank you for coming in this afternoon. It is a pleasure to hear your thoughts. What will be the challenges for retailers in enforcing the ban on sales?

Adrian Simpson: The first challenge is education of all the shop staff. Our members are the very large, household-name retailers, and it will take a long time to get that education out to the hundreds of thousands—in some cases—of shop workers throughout the UK. We also think that there will be issues to do with changing our point of sale systems, things like where we are going to store some of these products if we need to, and even things like the size and nature of the tobacco notices. Retail operates in many different ways—we think of the large supermarkets, but there are very small stores as well—so a lot of thought needs to be given to the technical parts of the legislation, which of course we always work with you on.

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Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q You mentioned that your members are used to working with Challenge 25. Do you see the Bill working in the same way? As the age of the smoke-free generation rises from year to year, will your colleagues in the retail sector manage to look at two different customers and ask the one that they are concerned about to verify their age?

Adrian Simpson: I think you made a wise point earlier, Minister, about the difference between a 40 and a 41-year-old. That is absolutely our concern: how will we do that? We hear a lot of things about artificial intelligence and new technology for age verification, but a lot of it is still down to human interaction—whether a human can tell the difference between 40 and 41, which can be difficult. That is certainly one of our biggest concerns. Again, we are keen to avoid situations where there could be a touchpoint for violence against shop workers.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q You will have heard Mr Fothergill from the LGA saying that he has to show his bus pass every time he wants free transport. Do you feel that that is where the solution lies?

Adrian Simpson: There certainly needs to be a bit more research into what the best methods are to keep this age restriction going. It is a new challenge in the retail sector. We have never had anything like this before, and the UK is a leader in this area. I think that, at the beginning, it will be about us all working together to try to get the age restriction going and to make sure that it is enforced, because—this is one point that I would like to make—our members are obviously very compliant and want to do the right thing. These household names are very protective of their reputations; they want to be good and to do the right thing for society. However, I certainly think that, with this new system that might come in, there could be some teething problems. We hope not, but that can naturally happen with all new systems.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q May I just clarify, then, that your members support the uplift in age, year on year? As you will no doubt be aware, there are some who challenge that and say, “Well, it shouldn’t keep escalating,” but the British Retail Consortium does support the idea of the increase, year on year, of the smoke-free generation, as so many of our other expert witnesses have done today. Would that be right? I do not want to put words in your mouth.

Adrian Simpson: It was definitely a point that came up quite a lot when we were debating this with members themselves. I would say that we are cautiously welcoming it, just because it will then bring about a level playing field for all retailers—because we know that these measures are not necessarily directed at our members, who are, as I say, in the legitimate, responsible retail sector. It will bring about a level playing field but, as I say, we might still need to see how it would operate in practice, I suppose, before we give it our wholehearted support.

Mary Glindon Portrait Mary Glindon
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I was just searching for a quote, which I think I cited in a debate last year, about a survey that had been commissioned about buying vapes. Out of the 28 vapes that were bought, 25 were illicit vapes. I presume that those are from places that are not responsible retailers—they clearly are irresponsible if they sell those. Are there a lot of retailers that do not subscribe to your organisation where this sort of thing could be occurring? If that is the case, how can we encourage them to become responsible retailers and join the consortium? What should be done? Do you try to reach out to retailers that you know are perhaps not the best and that you would like to see engage with your organisation to help to prevent this kind of illicit sale?

Adrian Simpson: Exactly. Our membership is predominantly the household-name retailers—the large retailers; the ones that certainly would not be selling illicit vapes. We have comprehensive supply chains, and our members put a lot of effort into making sure that their supply chains are operating with integrity, so that illicit products cannot enter them. I have not seen that report, but my feeling would be that the sellers mentioned in it are highly unlikely to be members of a reputable trade organisation. They might be ones that would not be looking for the same standards that our members would operate to.

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Preet Kaur Gill Portrait Preet Kaur Gill
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Finally from me, in your response to the Government’s “Creating a smokefree generation” consultation, you called for a fixed penalty notice of £200 and maybe the option of increasing that. Do you think that the fines and the monetary penalties in the Bill are appropriate?

Kate Pike: We really welcome the addition of a fixed penalty notice to our enforcement toolkit, but we absolutely want to have our own range of sanctions, which includes the opportunity to go to prosecution for persistent or egregious offenders. The fixed penalty notice can be a really quick solution, potentially against an individual salesperson, depending on the setting and the nature of the offending. I think that £100 can be quite a lot; £200 would be more. I think that is enough, given the opportunity in the Bill to increase it at a later stage if it is not working or having the impact that we want.

John Herriman: It is all relative at the end of the day. It needs to be tested first. To some illegitimate businesses, that will be seen just as a business cost. Whatever the amount is, we need to ensure that it is not seen as a business cost that can just be absorbed. It has to be a tangible deterrent: that is the key.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q It is great to see you—thanks for coming today. I think you are saying that at the moment the fine is set at the right level. It is a really important issue: by no means do we want it to appear to be a cost of doing business. Our previous witness was suggesting that for some shop workers it is a very significant sum and is quite problematic for them, so perhaps there should be training in the first instance.

We have sought to get the right balance, with a £100 fine that can be reduced to £50 if it is paid on the spot. For any of us, a day when we have to dish out £50 because we have done something wrong is a significant bad day. On the other hand, there is an escalation process to criminal prosecution. I am really keen that we get the balance right up front, notwithstanding that there will be powers to change it. Can I press you a bit further: is this or is this not the right place to start?

John Herriman: Can I make a broader point, and then maybe Kate can come in on the specifics? This is all about the market surveillance activity that allows you to understand what is happening on your local high streets and your ability to take enforcement action where necessary, whether that is a £100 fine or a prosecution. Fundamentally, that is the challenge at the moment. It is about the ability to have the right level of market surveillance and the right level of enforcement activity. I am sure it is a question that will come up. It is a challenge for trading standards at the moment, because over the past decade or so it has had significant cuts, in the region of 50%.

There are two halves to this question. First, is this the right legislation and are the amounts right? Secondly, legislation is only as good as the ability to enforce it. It feels as though the legislation is right—I will let Kate comment further on that—but the ability to enforce it is critical.

Kate Pike: Absolutely. Whenever we look at a new piece of regulation—as I think somebody mentioned earlier, we enforce more than 300 pieces of legislation across the spectrum—we ask, “Do we have the powers to enforce?” In the Tobacco and Vapes Bill, yes, we do. “Are there criminal penalties in there?” Yes, there are. The key things from our point of view—the building blocks—are there.

Across the spectrum, how many businesses sell tobacco? The impact assessment for the Bill says that there are something like 60,000 or 70,000 across the United Kingdom. On that spectrum, there are big businesses that know what they are doing and do not need a lot of support from us. There is a big chunk in the middle that might need a bit of support and guidance—they may make a mistake, but we can support them, help them and train them. Then there are a small amount at the other end that are the dodgy ones. We need to focus our enforcement efforts on them, because we will never be able to put one trading standards officer outside every business to be watching all the time.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q It is clear to me, having done a visit with enforcement officers, that some so-called specialist vape shops and some newsagents just have the vapes next to the sweets. It is a free-for-all: you get your bubble gum and your vape there. Is that problematic? Will this legislation mean that enforcement officers shut them down? Will there be enough powers and resources to ensure that this can no longer happen?

Kate Pike: The Bill will have enabling regulations on vapes, with powers and criminal sanctions. That is good, but the specifics around where the vapes are positioned in store will be down to the next stage. We get calls all the time from people saying, “There’s a shop in my area called Toys and Vapes—do something about it!” There is actually no legislation that we can use to tackle that.

If you do not want the vapes next to the sweets, legislate for it. We will enforce what it says in the legislation, but we cannot make it up. People are always saying, “That’s not right,” but we cannot enforce morals. We can only enforce the law, so get it in there. If you do not want the vapes there, for very good reasons, give us legislation and we can enforce it.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q My big concern is the illicit trade around vapes. What further measures would be helpful in the legislation to enable you to do your job? Vapes are clearly a delivery mechanism. We have particularly focused on lung health; I am more concerned about the use of vapes for synthetic drugs, which are available in my community and, I am sure, elsewhere. What more can be done to ensure that we do not see the growth of illicit vapes on our street corners or in our shops?

Kate Pike: Illegal drugs are not a trading standards issue. If drugs are consumed via vape or by injection or rolled up in a roll-up, that is not our issue; that is a police issue. We can only enforce the law around the products where the enforcement is given to trading standards. We have no role whatsoever in illegal drugs in vapes. But there is a huge amount of enforcement around illegal drugs in this country, with the police, and the public health approach, about ensuring that people do not use illegal drugs. However they consume them, it is really important that they are on board—

Tobacco and Vapes Bill (Third sitting)

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
Committee stage
Wednesday 1st May 2024

(2 weeks, 6 days ago)

Public Bill Committees
Tobacco and Vapes Bill 2023-24 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 1 May 2024 - (1 May 2024)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Tobacco and Vapes Bill 2023-24 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Preet Kaur Gill Portrait Preet Kaur Gill
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Finally from me, and this question is for Frank and Michael, the latest ONS figures in 2022 show smoking prevalence in Wales and Northern Ireland remaining constant rather than continuing to fall in the way that it did in England and Scotland. Do you think Wales and Northern Ireland have specific challenges related to smoking prevalence?

Sir Francis Atherton: It is certainly true that we are not going as fast in Wales as we would like to see. Smoking prevalence has dropped, from about 22% in 2020 down to 13% at present, but our target is to reach 5% by 2030, and we are not currently predicting that we will meet that target unless we go further and faster. We believe that this Bill will enable us to do that.

You asked for the reasons. One of the reasons is that we have deep-seated sociodemographic problems in Wales, which you have been referring to. Given the inequity that we see, meeting the needs of current smokers from those really deprived socioeconomic groups is really quite a challenge. We are doing everything we can in Wales to try to address that through “Help Me Quit” and smoking cessation support, but we really need to prevent the next generation from coming on board with smoking.

Professor Sir Michael McBride: Just following on from Sir Frank’s comments, you are absolutely correct that, while population prevalence of smoking sits at around 14% at the moment—behind the 12% in England and the 13% in Wales—we are doing slightly better than Scotland at the moment, which is sitting at about 15%. The figures for the Republic of Ireland are somewhere in the region of 18%. There is absolutely no doubt that we have the same socioeconomic drivers, in terms of social deprivation and health inequalities, that are fuelling this. Should the Bill succeed and pass into legislation, I see this as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make a significant change to protect future generations and their children from all the harmful consequences of smoking tobacco and other forms of tobacco use.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Dame Andrea Leadsom)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I thank all you chief medical officers for being here; we appreciate it. You will understand that your witness evidence is crucial to easing the passage of the Bill. I would like to get you on the record talking, first, about the start of life. The shadow Minister has just asked about pregnancy and, only this week, I was talking to a neonatal nursing lead, who said of the pregnancies of women who smoke that the children had a low birth weight and go on to have severe learning difficulties throughout their lives. That is heartbreaking, but also has significant implications for NHS and educational services, and for whole-life costs to the taxpayer. I would be grateful for your comments on that.

At the other end of the age range, elderly people who have smoked all their lives end up with decades of ill health brought on by a lifetime of smoking. I would be grateful, too, if you talked about some of the health outcomes for those who have smoked all their lives—some of the horrors of that. Sir Chris, you told me an anecdote of when you were a young vascular surgeon. For the record, it is important to talk about some of the heartbreak for those who wish they could stop smoking.

Professor Sir Chris Whitty: I completely agree with all the points you made. Starting off with the beginning of life, there are clear and significant increases in stillbirths, premature births, birth abnormalities and long-term effects from smoking just in the pre-birth period. Then, of course, if parents are smoking around babies and small children, that affects lung development and, if children have asthma, that will trigger asthma effects. Young children are significantly affected by passive smoking from their parents. The parents, of course, want the best for their children, but the problem is that they are now addicted to a product that has taken their choice away. We get those problems right from the very beginning, and we have talked about some of the issues in young pregnancies and where that leads.

Moving to the other end of the age spectrum that you were talking about, the full horrors of smoking for most people start to take effect from middle age onwards. At this point, people get a range of things. Everyone knows about lung cancer, I think, and most people know about heart disease, but there are effects on stroke or increases in dementia, which are significant—one of the best ways to delay dementia is not to smoke or to stop smoking at an early stage. That is a huge problem for all of us. Smoking also exacerbates any problems people have with diabetes—it makes that much worse—and people have multiple cardiac events leading to heart failure. In heavy smokers, we see extraordinary effects, like people having to lose their limbs. As you and I discussed, it is a tragedy to be on a ward with people with chronic obstructive airways disease, or on a vascular ward as a vascular surgeon with someone who has just had an amputation, weeping as they light up another cigarette, because they cannot stop, because their choice has been removed. I cannot hammer that point home firmly enough: this is an industry built on removing choice from people and then killing them in a horrible way.

Sir Francis Atherton: Minister, you also pointed out the cost to the NHS. In Wales, we estimate that we have about 5,500 deaths every year from smoking-related diseases. If we look at admissions to hospital, about 28,000 in the over-35 group is about 5% of overall hospital admissions. That is an enormous burden to the NHS. On a more personal basis, in a former life I was a GP, and I remember sitting with an elderly gentleman who at the end of his life was suffering with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. There is no worse death than not being able to breathe when just sitting there. I remember sitting with him as he was trying to talk to me and trying to express that same level of regret that Sir Chris talked about. If you talk to any smokers towards the end of their life, who are facing such terrible ends to their life, the sense of regret that you hear as a doctor is quite overpowering.

Professor Sir Michael McBride: It is estimated that in Northern Ireland there are more than 2,000 deaths each year directly attributable to smoking cigarettes; over the past five years, smoking makes up 12% of all deaths in Northern Ireland. Sir Frank and Sir Chris have clearly described the horrors of the impact that it has at an individual level, and as doctors we have all experienced that. We have all had those conversations with individuals who look back on a lifetime of regret.

On a more personal level, I also think at this moment about the impact that premature death, and the morbidity and mortality associated with smoking, has on families and children. My own father died at 46 years of age, when I was 16, from acute myocardial infarction as a consequence of a lifetime addiction to smoking cigarettes. So, we need to bear in mind the very human costs, family costs and wider societal costs as well. It is not just the cost to the health service, but the societal cost, the family cost and the cost to the wider economy.

Professor Sir Gregor Ian Smith: We should never forget the societal cost that Sir Michael just spoke about. I am the child of two smokers who died in their mid-60s from smoking-related disease. We see it all too often in Scotland. In fact, in Scotland we still have 9,000 deaths a year attributed to tobacco addiction and smoking. That is one death every 61 minutes that families suffer across Scotland as a consequence of addiction to smoking.

As a clinician, one of the diseases that I had become quite specialised in treating and led a lot of work on is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. That is a smoking-related disease that people develop, often at too young an age, and begins to really impair their ability to participate fully in life—not only in employment, but in the pastimes that they love. Gradually, over time, it becomes worse.

Sir Frank touched on the sense of regret that people have that they ever started smoking in the first place and find themselves in this position. Beyond that, there is an even sadder element: many of the people who experience these chronic life-limiting illnesses have not only regret that they ever started, but guilt about the burden that they place on the health service and their family because of the illness and disability that they develop. That guilt sometimes reaches to the extent that they do not seek full care. Many people’s attitude is, “I deserve this. I started smoking; I need to pay the consequences.” That is a terrible psychological position for any person to find themselves in. Removing the starting point for that addiction, so that people will not experience that through their life, is the aim of the Bill.

Let me make one last point. We talk about the health impacts of all this. The Scottish burden of disease study projects that over the next 20 years, up until 2043, we will see a 21% increase in the general burden of disease across our population in Scotland, despite having a falling population during that time. Much of that projected burden of disease is smoking related; it relates to cancers, cardiovascular disease and neurological conditions such as dementia, which are all influenced by smoking. It is absolutely necessary for us to address this in a preventive way, and I believe that the Bill is a very good way of doing that.

Professor Sir Chris Whitty: I want to reinforce the point that Sir Gregor just made, with which I am sure the Committee fully agrees, that individual smokers should never be blamed for the situation they are in. An incredibly wealthy, very sophisticated marketing industry deliberately addicted them to something, at the earliest age it could get away with it, and they have had their choice removed. It is important that people do not feel guilt and come forward for care, and that no one blames them for a situation that was deliberately put on them by industry marketing.

Kirsten Oswald Portrait Kirsten Oswald (East Renfrewshire) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I will continue on the theme of marketing. Do you have thoughts about the measures relating to the product restriction of vapes in the Bill? Are they robust enough, in your mind, to prevent the harm that is caused by vapes, particularly to young people? I am thinking of the study that came out yesterday that, concerningly, suggested a risk to teenagers who vape of exposure to toxic metals, potentially harming their organ and brain development.

As a follow-on from that, I am concerned about the advertising of vape companies on sports kits, which is profoundly unhelpful. When we look at sporting figures who young people can admire, that has absolutely no place. I wonder what your views are on that.

Professor Sir Gregor Ian Smith: My views are very clear on vaping in young people and on sales to the youth categories. This is an activity that we are still learning much about but that the evidence, as it emerges, appears to suggest is very harmful to them. In my conversations with my paediatricians and with the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, they are very concerned about the impacts on health of young people from beginning vaping. Any attempt to make products such as single-use vapes or flavoured vapes, or the packaging used or the marketing around vapes, more attractive to that age group is something that we need to counter and resist.

I would say that the aims of the Bill will allow us the means by which we can properly consult on the way that we attempt to reduce overall vaping use in this age group. I am very clear in my views on this: while I understand that vaping may be an assistance to people who are already addicted to tobacco and nicotine products as a consequence of use of many years—I see that there may be an argument that it allows them to reduce the level of harm they are exposed to—I am not convinced or led by any of the arguments that starting vaping in a younger age group is a safe activity at all. I do not believe that that is the case; I believe that it is harmful to those groups. We must try to counter that, and to counter the marketing machine that Sir Chris has spoken about, by reducing the flavours and packaging that are attractive to younger people.

--- Later in debate ---
Preet Kaur Gill Portrait Preet Kaur Gill
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q We should all be concerned about the increase in the use of vapes by young children, so it is important that the Bill will ban the sale of vapes to under-18s. It will also close the loopholes for under-16s, because we know that vapes are being marketed and given out for free. That is the issue we must address. My concern with the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities being disbanded is on public health messaging. Parents and families are really concerned that some of their children are going through a number of these vapes per day or per week, and they do not know what is a safe amount.

There is a growing illicit vape market, but how would parents know what is illicit or what the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has notified as being compliant? Where is the public health messaging to support schools? We heard really good evidence yesterday from the union. This is my concern: where can people access support and information? We already have a generation of kids addicted to vapes that are marketed as having 0% nicotine, but we know that there is nicotine contained in them. What would you say to that?

Sir Francis Atherton: There is some messaging going on through the various Governments. In Wales we have a “No Ifs. No Butts.” programme, which tries to work at an individual level, to alert people to the dangers that we have been discussing, and with wider society, about the dangers and links between illicit tobacco and illicit vaping and organised crime. Bringing that awareness to the population is really important for those two reasons.

We work with trading standards to try to tackle the issue of illicit tobacco and vapes. It is important that we continue that. My understanding is that wherever we have been successful in reducing demand, which the Bill intends to do, the illicit supply also decreases. We would expect that to be a consequence of the Bill.

Professor Sir Chris Whitty: One of the many talking points of the cigarette industry is, “Well, any kind of downward pressure on cigarettes would lead to an increase in the illicit market.” All the evidence shows that the reverse happens. When you bring in reduced demand, the illicit market decreases.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I think we might be out of time, but I have one more question. In the passage of the Bill, there is a concern that some may wish to fix flavours on the face of the Bill, rather than allow the powers. Sir Chris, can we have a comment on the record on how damaging that would be?

Professor Sir Chris Whitty: That would be very damaging, because we know that this is one of the most innovative marketing industries in the world. That is how they have managed to sell to people something that will addict them and then kill them. If we give them room for manoeuvre by nailing things down, they will find a way around it, because they always have found a way around regulations. I am absolutely supportive of the comment you have just made.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

I am afraid this brings us to the end of the time allotted for the Committee to ask questions. I thank all the witnesses, because you answered a huge number of questions and provided great information.

Examination of Witnesses

Professor Sir Stephen Powis and Kate Brintworth gave evidence.

--- Later in debate ---
Preet Kaur Gill Portrait Preet Kaur Gill
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Would you like to say anything about admissions of young people in relation to smoking?

Professor Sir Stephen Powis: I will make a few broad comments on smoking, if I can. Seventy-eight years ago, Parliament passed the National Health Service Act 1946, which led to the formation of the NHS on 5 July 1948. In my view, the legislation that you are considering here today is one of the most important—possibly the most important—pieces of legislation since the passage of that Act. Why? Smoking has an extraordinary impact upon the health of the nation, and of course directly upon the NHS.

To put that into a bit more context—you have heard some of this already, but maybe I will provide some more detail—smoking is associated with, or causes, over 100 individual conditions that are managed and treated within the NHS. It impacts the NHS at all levels: almost every minute of every day there is a hospital admission related to smoking; there are over 100 GP appointments every hour for smoking-related disease; and 400,000 admissions a year are related to or associated with smoking. You have heard the chief medical officers briefly talk about the impact on specific diseases. Lung cancer is the one that everyone knows about, and 80% of lung cancers are caused by smoking. This Bill has the opportunity to transform lung cancer from a common disease into a relatively rare disease, and one that clinicians of the future will not see in any way as commonly as clinicians of my generation.

It is not about just lung cancer; you have heard about the impact on cardiovascular disease, and clearly, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease would again become a rare disease for the clinicians and the patients of the future. This Bill can also have an early impact on diseases that affect young people. Asthma is a disease not caused by smoking but a condition exacerbated by it. We see such admissions particularly over the months when asthma is worse and when there are respiratory infections, which are no doubt exacerbated by smoking.

In mental health, smoking doubles the risk of developing depression. More than one in two people with severe mental health conditions smoke, and the life expectancy of those with mental health conditions is reduced because of smoking. Mental health issues in our young people and children are well-known and well-described, and smoking simply exacerbates them. There is great potential, even in the early years, in the passage of this Bill for an impact on conditions that we see and manage in the NHS. Over the long term, that potential impact is extraordinary on those conditions, which number over 100.

You may know that I am a kidney doctor, but you may not know that smoking can impact on kidney disease. The kidney, like any organ, is supplied by blood vessels. When smoking impacts on the health of blood vessels and causes vascular disease, that can reduce the bloody supply to the kidney, which can cause kidney failure and lead to dialysis and transplantation. There is a large range of conditions that are impacted by smoking, and it will be extraordinary for those clinicians of the future not to have to do what we have done—tell patients and their families that people are going to die prematurely. That is an extraordinarily difficult thing for clinicians to do. Those are preventable diseases, and this Bill will prevent them.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Thank you so much for being here today. As I said to the chief medical officers, you will appreciate that your words can be very helpful in smoothing the passage of this very important Bill. I would like to talk to Kate, please, about the impact of smoking on mothers who are pregnant. What is the impact on their babies, on the delivery of the baby, and on the baby’s health outcomes? If you could give us an outline, that would be very helpful.

Kate Brintworth: It is important to start with the fact that we know that smoking is the single biggest modifiable risk factor for pregnancy, and we know that every women who gets pregnant wants the best for her baby. As a midwife, I have never sat in front of a woman who does not want the absolute best for her baby. It is important to build on what Chris Whitty said around the removal of choice. Women will go to extraordinary lengths to protect their bodies and babies to ensure that their children have the best start in life, and yet the quit rates that we see in pregnant women are between 30% and 40%, showing how difficult it is for women to extricate themselves from the situation in which they find themselves.

The effects are devastating: stillbirths are increased by 47%; you are twice as likely to have a baby that has not grown properly; and you are 27% more likely to have a baby that is born pre-term. You are more likely to have complications of pregnancy, such as bleeding, the placenta not forming properly or the waters that surround the baby breaking earlier with the risk of infection, so there are immediate effects that we can see. If a baby is small, it goes into labour more vulnerable to the stresses of labour, so we can have more complications there. If a caesarean section is needed, the mother is more vulnerable to recovery and it can be a much harder road to recovery for her, with the risk of infection and blood clots, but also for the baby. If the baby is born early, obviously the risk then is that the baby and mother are separated and you have this unnecessary trauma to a family of a baby having to go into a neonatal unit. The risks that come from prematurity are well-documented for children, for educational attainment and for their lung and health development, but when the children go home, they are more at risk of sudden infant death syndrome—up to three times more—in a smoking household.

There are then the long-term effects. We have already heard about asthma, chest infections and obesity. All those are heightened in children born into smoking households. You have a situation where children are at risk and women are at their most vulnerable when they are pregnant, and it really feels like it is our duty to support this Bill to protect the most vulnerable in our society, because there are the effects of having a child born with possible behavioural problems and malformations, which have been described. Those are really shocking events. I was talking to service users yesterday who have had children in the neonatal unit, and it is incredibly shocking when your pregnancy ends early and you are separated from your baby. There is a mental health impact on the family. There is also the point that this affects those coming from the most socioeconomically deprived backgrounds, for whom having any kind of health challenge makes it a much higher bar to fight.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
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Q That is very harrowing to hear. Could you further expand on the impact on families of losing a baby due to stillbirth as a result of smoking? How does that impact on their mental health? As you said, parents will do everything they can to protect their baby, but the addiction to cigarettes is so strong that for many it must lead to them blaming themselves for the death of their baby.

Kate Brintworth: The birth of a child is so happily anticipated by every person who gets pregnant. From the moment that you see a thin blue line, you are having a baby. You have hopes and dreams for the expansion of your family, but not just for that individual family: a baby is born, and it is a niece, a nephew, a grandchild, a cousin. It really ripples out across the entire family. When there is then a 35% risk of miscarriage and a higher risk of ectopic pregnancy and, as you said, the absolutely awful, tragic and devastating news that your baby has died when it reaches term, that is something that no parent should ever have to face unnecessarily. It just feels like the worst thing you ever have to do as a clinician to tell someone that their baby has died. Every time I have ever had to do that, it has been the worst point in my career. It is difficult to explain how destroying it can be for families, and we see the long-term sequelae in terms of mental health, to the point where we have put in extra perinatal mental health support for families that have suffered that kind of trauma.

Professor Sir Stephen Powis: Can I pick up on the health inequalities aspect, because I think that is really important and I have the figures in front of me? In 2021-22, 21% of pregnant women in the most deprived areas smoked at the time of delivery, compared with 5.6% in the least deprived areas. That is a really stark difference. Smoking is widely accepted as the most significant driver of health inequalities in the UK. Detailed analysis has concluded that 85% of the observed inequalities between socioeconomic groups could be attributed to smoking. We spend a lot of time in the NHS quite rightly targeting our interventions and support to deprived areas to address health inequalities. At a stroke, this Bill would have the greatest impact that we could possibly see.

Steve Tuckwell Portrait Steve Tuckwell (Uxbridge and South Ruislip) (Con)
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Q Thank you for coming to address us this morning. We heard compelling insight from the chief medical officers earlier. Will you update the Committee on how you see this Bill supporting the NHS in the long term and the short term?

Professor Sir Steven Powis: I have already highlighted some of the short-term impacts, and there will undoubtedly be short-term impacts. Some conditions are exacerbated by smoking, with asthma in children being an obvious one. I have talked about mental health conditions and the way that smoking exacerbates conditions such as depression and chronic mental health illness.

We will start to see immediate effects, but those effects will grow over time. I have given you some of the conditions that are impacted on by smoking—there are well over 100 of them—but I can give some more stats. By stopping children from ever starting to smoke, we estimate that we will prevent about 30,000 new cases of smoking-related lung cancer every year. More than 1.4 million people suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which is a chronic disease of the lungs caused by smoking—it causes nine out of every 10 cases. As I said, that is a disease that clinicians commonly see. A common cause of admissions to emergency departments, through the winter particularly, is other respiratory infections on top of COPD—these are diseases that future clinicians will see rarely. They will not see them in the way that clinicians of my generation have had to manage them. The impact will begin immediately, but over time that impact will get greater.

--- Later in debate ---
Preet Kaur Gill Portrait Preet Kaur Gill
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Q There seems to be an issue around what is contained in illicit vapes, which we know include things like lead, nickel and high levels of nicotine, versus other vapes that have gone through a notification process. Do you feel that the research on the impacts of illicit vapes is not there, or is it the impact of vapes that have gone through a compliant process?

Professor Hawthorne: There is probably very little research on either.

Professor Turner: If I could just bring a bit of clarity, it is well known that nicotine is bad for us. Sir Walter Raleigh brought it back with some potatoes, and we have known for hundreds of years that nicotine is an addictive drug. As I said previously, it will shorten your life expectancy by between 10 and 15 years. Because we know nicotine is in all nicotine-containing vapes, whether licit or illicit, it is harmful regardless of what the other components might be. It is likely that those other components add to the harm, but there is substantial and well-described harm from nicotine addiction to us as human beings.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
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Q Thank you both so much for being here. As I said to the other medical professionals, your words today will be incredibly valuable in ensuring the smooth passage of the Bill. Professor Turner, could you explain to us what happens to a baby born addicted to nicotine in terms of the withdrawal symptoms and the impact on its health and development?

Professor Turner: There is not a lot of research on that. Certainly, we know that if you are in utero and your mother is smoking, you will get the harmful effects of nicotine. That is a very good question—I honestly do not know what the effects on the unborn child would be. Certainly, we know that children born to parents who are addicted to morphine or cocaine have learning difficulties. I have to be honest and say that I might have to get back to you on that one, but I can assure you that it is not good to be in utero and exposed to nicotine.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
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Q Professor Hawthorne, from a GP’s perspective, could you talk us through the impact of second-hand smoking on childhood asthma and how that presents in terms of the innocence of the child and the impact of something being done to them?

Professor Hawthorne: We have known for a long time that passive smoking increases the risk of not just asthma, but upper respiratory tract infections and ear infections. It is very much part of a GP’s role when they are consulting with such patients coming in with these infections to ask about parental smoking. It is interesting that the responses are nearly always the same. If the parent smokes, they will always say, “But I only ever smoke outside.” Of course, one has to take that as it is, but I suspect that they are probably not always smoking outside. It is definitely a well-recognised link, but I am seeing it a bit less than I used to.

Everybody knows about the dangers of smoking. A lot of my patients, when I talk to them about needing to stop smoking, already know what I am saying. Quite often, I will say to them, “Well, you know what I am going to say next, don’t you?”, and they will say, “Yeah, I know. I need to stop smoking.” The conversation then proceeds from there.

We also have evidence that, in general practice consultations, a short intervention can be very effective. We know that people are very pressed for time, and there is only so much we can cover in a 10-minute appointment, especially if the patient is coming with three different problems. But there is good evidence that with even a very short intervention—I think in about 10% of cases—patients will actually stop smoking. It is always worth talking about, and if I get the time, I have a much longer spiel, because you need to think about the behavioural and addictive aspects of smoking. We go through, “When are you most likely to want to smoke? Is it after a meal, when you are on the phone or when you first get up in the morning?” We talk about what else they can do instead. I had one patient who went and dug the garden whenever she wanted to smoke. It is that kind of conversation.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
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Q We know that it takes up to 30 quit attempts to actually give up smoking. Can both of you give us a clue as to what is it about the 30th attempt that finally gets people over the line? Specifically to Professor Turner, is it being pregnant or having a partner who is pregnant? Is that the thing that makes people finally achieve their goal?

Professor Hawthorne: For adults, it is having that heart attack that maybe you could have avoided if you had stopped smoking before. Again, that is part of the conversation I have with patients. I say, “You are a heavy smoker, and you are at risk. Wouldn’t it be better if you stopped smoking before you have the heart attack, rather than after?” There are things like that, for sure.

We also operate a cycle of change psychological model—the Prochaska and DiClemente model. Essentially, it is a bit like having a clock face. We work out where the patient is on the clock face, and we are trying to get them round the clock to 12. If they are at somewhere like 2 o’clock, that is them saying, “Yeah, I know it is bad for me, but really no way am I going to do anything.” By 4 or 6 o’clock, they are saying, “Yeah, I know it is bad for me. I have tried a few times but it is just hopeless.” By quarter to, they are saying, “I’ve really got to do something”, and by five to, they are coming in and saying, “Doctor, you have to help me stop now.”

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
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Q And is that related to their declining health?

Professor Hawthorne: Not necessarily. It is about pushing people psychologically around that clock face. I try to work out where they are on the clock face and see if I can nudge them a bit further round, until one day they come and say, “I’ve got to stop now. What can you do to help me?”

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you.

Professor Turner: As Kamila says, there are myriad drivers—teachable moments. Sometimes, when your child is admitted to hospital with an asthma attack, that might be the thing that makes both parents say, “That’s it.” It might be that the grandmother says to her daughter, “You’ve got to stop for your child.” Legislation might also be one of those teachable moments that make people reflect on their 29 past unsuccessful attempts and think, “I’m going to do it again.” There is no one thing, but there are clearly teachable moments, as we all have when we change our behaviour. As I suggested, I think this legislation will be one of those.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you very much. One last question: do you think the financial incentives for pregnant women and their partners would help?

Professor Turner: I think this is extremely contentious, but the evidence is that it does—sorry, you did ask me about pregnancy before. Pregnancy itself can be one of those opportunities to quit. Those parents who continue smoking—12% in Cumbria—feel terribly guilty. Anything we can do for that person, who has been addicted since she was 15 or 16, can help them to quit. There is no doubt—in Dundee, the trials have shown that, if you give mums incentives, in terms of vouchers rather than money, it helps them to quit, particularly if they are from deprived communities.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell
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Q We have already heard how addictive nicotine is, but do we have an understanding of the dosage of nicotine that people inhale through vaping versus through smoking? Secondly, are we missing an opportunity not to introduce a nicotine-free generation?

Professor Hawthorne: I am not a nicotine expert, but my understanding is that there is a risk from vaping, but it is about 5% of the risk from smoking. That is the best I can do in comparing the two. When I talk to patients about stopping smoking, vaping is one of the things we talk about as an alternative, with a view to eventually stopping vaping as well. Of course, there are all the other products: we use patches and chewing gum—all the usual things. It is difficult to quantify exactly how much less dangerous vaping is than smoking.

Professor Turner: Just to supplement that, as a user—if that is the right word—or a customer buying a vape, you can select the dose you want. There are doses that are equivalent to cigarettes and doses that you can wean yourself down on.

You asked whether we would be missing an opportunity if we do not introduce a smoke-free generation. I think we would absolutely be missing an opportunity. If we look back, the legislation on smoke-free public spaces across the UK was landmark. We all remember the days when you went on a plane and there was a smoking bit up front and a non-smoking bit at the back. If we were to go back and say there would be no smoking areas, we would think, “Wow, that would be transformational.” We have come on a journey, and the legislation has been part of it. I see a smoke-free generation as the logical next step, and I really think we have to take it.

Tobacco and Vapes Bill (Fifth sitting)

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

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Committee stage
Thursday 9th May 2024

(1 week, 5 days ago)

Public Bill Committees
Tobacco and Vapes Bill 2023-24 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 9 May 2024 - (9 May 2024)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Tobacco and Vapes Bill 2023-24 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Clause 2 stand part.

Clause 37 stand part.

Clause 41 stand part.

Clauses 48 and 49 stand part.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Dame Andrea Leadsom)
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Clauses 1, 37 and 48 change the age of sale for tobacco products, herbal smoking products and cigarette papers so that no one born on or after 1 January 2009 will legally be sold those products in England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, respectively. That replaces the existing legislation, which sets the age of sale at 18 years old. The clauses are core to the ambition of being the first country in the world to create a smoke-free generation, which is supported by the public, including a majority of retailers: nearly 70% of people support our plan to create a smoke-free generation. But why is it necessary?

First, this new age of sale will save tens of thousands of lives. Tobacco is devastating for the health of smokers. It is the single biggest preventable cause of death, responsible for about 80,000 deaths in the UK each year. Smoking causes one in four cancer deaths, including 70% of lung cancer cases. It is not just those who smoke who experience the harms; second-hand smoke also causes enormous harm to children, through no choice of their own.

There is no safe age to smoke. We know that 75% of smokers would never have started if they had the choice again, and those who start smoking as a young adult lose an average of 10 years of life expectancy. As we heard from the chief medical officer for England in his oral evidence session, individual smokers should never be blamed for the situation they are in. An incredibly wealthy and sophisticated marketing industry deliberately addicted them to something, at the earliest age it could get away with, and they have had their choice removed.

Secondly, this measure will boost our economy. Each year, smoking costs our economy a minimum of £17 billion, which is far more than the £10 billion income per year that the Treasury receives from taxes on tobacco products. That is equivalent to 6.9p in every £1 of income tax received. Therefore, reducing the prevalence of smoking will reduce these costs, helping our economy to become more productive.

On that note, reducing smoking will also cut the burden on the NHS. As Sir Stephen Powis outlined in his oral evidence, smoking impacts the NHS at all levels. Almost every minute of every day, someone is admitted to hospital with a smoking-related disease and over 100 GP appointments every hour are because of smoking. Reducing this burden will allow us to invest more in vital care, focus on major conditions and cut waiting lists.

Thanks to years of decisive Government action and stop-smoking support, smoking rates are coming down, but we want to build a brighter future for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I know that there are concerns about this policy, which were discussed at length on Second Reading. I want to reassure all colleagues that this policy is not about taking away people’s rights. There is no liberty in addiction and nicotine robs people of their freedom to choose.

I also urge all members of the Committee not to be taken in by the tobacco industry’s claims that the black market for tobacco products will boom. Before the legal smoking age was increased from 16 to 18, the tobacco industry sang from that same hymn sheet, but the facts drowned them out. The number of illicit cigarettes consumed actually fell by 25%, and smoking rates for 16 and 17-year-olds dropped by almost a third. In fact, consumption of illegal tobacco has plummeted from 17 billion cigarettes in 2000-01 to 3 billion cigarettes in 2022-2023.

To crack down on illicit tobacco and under-age tobacco and vape sales, we are putting an extra £30 million of new funding per year over five years into our enforcement agencies and we are working closely with enforcement colleagues to ensure that these measures are successfully implemented. And we have not forgotten current smokers. The measures in the Bill are accompanied by a suite of measures to support current smokers to quit. They include nearly doubling the funding for local stop-smoking services with an additional £70 million each year over the next five years, providing a new financial incentives programme to support pregnant women and their partners to quit, and providing additional funding for stop-smoking campaigns and to ensure that retailers and the public understand the changes in the law.

On Second Reading, there were also discussions about what products were in scope of the new restrictions. Let me clarify matters by saying that the new age of sale restrictions will apply to all tobacco products, including tobacco that is smoked, smokeless or chewed. When it is smoked, tobacco kills up to two thirds of its long-term users, and all smoked tobacco, including in shisha and cigars, is harmful. There is also clear evidence of the toxicity of heated tobacco in laboratory studies; the aerosol generated by heated tobacco contains carcinogens. I know that some of our colleagues have championed heated tobacco products as a smoking quit aid, but there are less harmful tobacco-free products that can support people to quit smoking.

Tobacco products such as paan, betel quid and chewing tobacco are also covered by the Bill. Tobacco that is not smoked is not a safe way to use tobacco. Using smokeless tobacco increases the risk of both mouth cancer and oesophageal cancer.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con)
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I thank my right hon. Friend for the speech she is making and of course I absolutely support all the measures in the Bill. One concern, which I think was raised on Second Reading, about paan and chewing tobacco is that they are currently not specified very clearly in the Bill. Is she planning to introduce any further measures, either in Committee or in regulation, to address this concern? One of the problems is that at the moment those products are freely sold in a range of different environments.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
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First, I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his very long-standing campaign to stamp out nicotine and tobacco. He is absolutely right that we will need to make it very clear to members of the public, retailers and health organisations our intention to stamp out all tobacco products, because they are all unsuitable for our smoke-free generation. I will make a note of his concern, take it away and make sure that the legislation makes things as clear as it possibly can.

The Bill also applies to cigarette papers, as do current age of sale restrictions. Their bleaches and dyes add to the volume of smoke and the range of toxicants in the smoke, contributing additional risks to smokers. Likewise, herbal cigarettes are included in the legislation, as they are harmful to health. Although their smoke does not contain nicotine or tobacco, it does contain cancer-causing chemicals, tar and carbon monoxide similar to a tobacco cigarette.

I will briefly mention clause 41, which amends the Scottish legislation to include herbal smoking products under provisions for age of sale, age verification policy, sales by under-18s, proxy purchasing and vending machines. With their harms outlined above, it is right that herbal smoking products be included within the current and future tobacco control legislation. By extending this legislation, Scotland will be aligned with the other UK nations. This measure will also support the effective implementation and enforcement of the Bill by providing consistency for enforcement officers, industry, retailers and consumers across the UK.

To complement the smoke-free generation policy, we are also bringing forward clause 2, which makes it an offence for someone over the age of 18 to purchase tobacco products, herbal smoking products or cigarette papers on behalf of someone born on or after 1 January 2009 in England and Wales; this is known as proxy purchasing. Proxy purchasing of these products by an adult for someone under age is already prohibited; the clause makes it an offence for any adult to buy these products for someone in the smoke-free generation—that is, born on or after 1 January 2009. That means someone might be caught by the offence if they are also too young to be sold the products themselves, but we did not want to overcomplicate the application of this offence.

We hope this measure will send a clear message to stop people trying to buy products for people under the age of sale. Proxy purchasing in Scotland and Northern Ireland will also be updated through clauses 37 and 48 to align with the new age of sale. These provisions are essential to ensure there are no loopholes in the age of sale legislation, and build on what we have found to work in the current age of sale legislation.

Finally, I present clause 49 to the Committee. The clause amends a provision in the Health and Personal Social Services (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 to provide the Department of Health in Northern Ireland with the power to amend the definition of “sale” to mean “sale by retail”. If the power is used, only sales from a retailer to a customer will be caught by the tobacco age of sale offence, which will therefore not include business to business sales, such as sales between a wholesaler and a retailer. This measure would bring the type of sales caught by the tobacco age of sale offence in Northern Ireland in line with those in England, Wales and Scotland. Fundamentally, the clauses included in this group are essential to implementing the smoke-free generation policy.

There is both strong cross-party and cross-nation support for these measures. It is clear that we all acknowledge the need to protect future generations from the harms of smoking. No one wants their children to ever start smoking. In England alone, it could prevent almost half a million cases of heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and other deadly diseases by the turn of the century, increasing thousands of people’s quality of life and reducing pressures on our NHS. Thanks to the collaborative work we have undertaken with the devolved Administrations, we have produced a Bill that will save lives right across the United Kingdom. I therefore commend these clauses to the Committee.

Preet Kaur Gill Portrait Preet Kaur Gill (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab/Co-op)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Dame Siobhain, and to serve on this Bill Committee. I will start with some general remarks about the context of this legislation.

This is an important Bill. As we heard on Second Reading, there is vanishingly little opposition to the central point that nicotine addiction is a scourge on our society, and that it is right the Government take steps to reduce its harms. Nicotine addiction cuts lives short and worsens healthy life expectancy disproportionately among more deprived communities; the toll it takes on the economy, and in particular on our NHS, far outweighs any benefit the Exchequer receives in taxes.

Labour proposed a progressive increase in the age of sale for tobacco in January 2023, and the Minister can be reassured that we will continue to support this Bill. If Labour win the next election—if we are privileged enough to do so—we will implement it. It will be a pleasure to genuinely lead the world on tobacco control, given that tobacco kills an estimated 8 million people a year.

--- Later in debate ---
Kirsten Oswald Portrait Kirsten Oswald (East Renfrewshire) (SNP)
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I, too, welcome the provisions in the Bill and the contributions that have been made so far from both sides of the House. It is very important that we have a collective voice on this, wherever possible. We know that smoking is a leading cause of preventable death in Scotland and the rest of the UK. In 2022, smoking accounted for an estimated 8,942 deaths of those aged 35 and above in Scotland. We have also heard about the significant impact that smoking has on those who are already suffering from inequality and are in the most disadvantaged situations in our community.

The work on the Bill has been constructive, and it contains a number of measures pushed for by the Scottish Government; of course, part 2 specifically relates to Scotland. Jenni Minto, the Scottish Public Health Minister, has spoken positively about how Scotland has dealt with tobacco control measures, being a world leader. Although we know that there has been a reduction in the proportion of people smoking, it is still damaging far too many lives and killing too many people. We heard about the huge damage to the capacity of our NHS because of the difficulties caused by smoking, and the damage to people’s lives.

Scotland has long led the UK on tobacco control. We in the SNP really welcome this collaborative step towards creating a smoke-free generation. As the first UK nation to introduce an indoor smoking ban, and having led on the overhaul of tobacco sale and display law, we can clearly see the important steps we are taking and the significant, positive impact on public health that is possible. We support the new age regime and the greater powers for Scottish Ministers to tackle youth smoking and vaping. It would be very helpful to hear further about how it is anticipated that the powers will be used. We need to make sure that this works in practice.

I close by reflecting what others have said about the uniquely lethal and addictive nature of smoking, and the far-reaching problems it causes in people’s lives. We need to take whatever steps we can to prevent this addiction—so enthusiastically encouraged by the marketing teams of these industries—from taking hold in the first place. It is really important that we take all the steps available to us while we have this unique opportunity. We need to look at closing some small gaps, which I am sure we will discuss further. I would be very happy to hear from the Government Front Bench team about sponsorship, which is an interest of mine in terms of vapes, but I hope that we can make constructive progress on making this Bill a reality.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I appreciate the clear cross-party support for the measures in the Bill. I understand that hon. Members will have views on ways to amend or strengthen it, but I urge the Committee to appreciate how little time we have. As we heard clearly from last week’s evidence sessions—from the chief medical officers from all parts of the United Kingdom and from so many medical professionals—this is a very good Bill, so let us not make the perfect the enemy of the good. Let us get this through.

I very much appreciate the welcome of all colleagues, and I assure them all that I will take away any suggestions and requests and come back with clear answers. Where something is relatively simple to do, we will seek to do that, but equally, as Members will appreciate, it is not always possible to accept every suggestion, no matter how well-meaning—and I absolutely accept that, in this Bill, it is always well-meaning.

I will answer the points that hon. Members specifically raised. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston asked about how we will encourage young people to quit smoking at an early stage. She will be aware that there are lots of measures to try to help people to stop, including the financial incentives that we are providing, particularly for those expecting a baby and their partners. There are also the quit aids to help people to swap to stop—to move to vapes, which I think we all recognise can be a useful quit aid. They are not harmless, but are less harmful than smoking cigarettes.

We are working at pace with online retailers on how to support them to ensure age verification, and I hope that we will be able to say more about that. The issue of duty-free sales is a tricky one, as my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East will appreciate, because we do not want to put the burden of legality on the purchaser. The idea is that it should be illegal to sell, and, of course, we have jurisdiction only in the United Kingdom, but I take his points on board and will come back to him on that.

The hon. Member for York Central is right that we need to do everything we can to stop advertising. There are already very strict rules around advertising, and smoking and vaping are severely restricted when it comes to advertising to children. But I think—I hope that the hon. Lady will agree—that the vaping measures, including the powers to limit packaging, flavours and in locations in stores, will do a lot to reduce the appeal to children, which I know we are all incredibly concerned about.

Caroline Johnson Portrait Dr Johnson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I say, first, that I fully support this Bill and what it intends to do. Having worked in respiratory medicine in my very first job as a doctor, I saw far too many people suffering from and dying of respiratory illness, and suffering through the final years of their life due to respiratory illness caused by smoking. I think this is excellent legislation.

My right hon. Friend talked about advertising being quite restricted, but, with vaping, we see sports teams—rugby teams and football teams—using vaping brands as adverts for children. These are not recreational substances, or should not be recreational substances. They are supposed to be quit aids and do not need advertising where children can see them.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend makes an extremely good point. She will be interested to know that I have recently written to the Advertising Standards Authority to ask about how well it considers enforcement to be working, and what more it can do to enforce the already strict regulations. I am happy to share its response, when it comes, with all members of the Committee.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
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I will give way to the hon. Member for York Central and then to the hon. Member for East Renfrewshire.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell
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I am really grateful to the Minister for the work that she is doing in this area, but clearly, for vaping, there is not equality with smoking in terms of an advertising ban. For simplicity’s sake, equalising the law would make a significant difference. We often think about packaging in shops, but today, the social media space is an incredibly powerful tool that young people are exposed to on a continuous basis. Therefore, extending the advertising, promotion and sponsorship ban could have such a significant impact, and it could be legislated for simply. As we have got so accustomed to the advertising ban for tobacco products, it can simply be translated for vapes. Will the Minister look into that?

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
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With your permission, Dame Siobhain, I will take the intervention on the same subject from the hon. Member for East Renfrewshire.

Kirsten Oswald Portrait Kirsten Oswald
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Is the Minister able to tell us a bit more about the interaction with the Advertising Standards Authority? What jurisdiction does it have in relation to the advertising of vapes on football strips, for instance? Is it not in fact our job to deal with that, rather than the job of the Advertising Standards Authority?

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In response to all those points, I am extremely sympathetic to the need to clamp down on advertising. It seemed to me, when I came to the Bill, that it was important to get a “Where are we now?”-type assessment of what the current regulations say, how well they are being enforced and what more needs to be done. Like many colleagues, I am interested to hear what the Advertising Standards Authority has to say about that, and I am sure we will come back to this subject.

The hon. Member for York Central raised age verification. As she knows, retailers will be required to challenge and seek age verification from those who are born on or after 1 January 2009. As the Bill continues its passage, we will look at the amendments that have been tabled and consider whether there is a need to change that age verification requirement. At the moment, I think the Bill strikes the right balance. As I said at the beginning, it is essential that we make progress with the Bill in the short time remaining in this Parliament.

The hon. Lady’s points about the visitor economy were well made. It is essential that we ensure wide communication about the new measures in stores, at the point of sale; to retailers, who will have just over two years to enforce this legislation and undertake the training; and to members of the public. I commend the clauses to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 1 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 3

Tobacco vending machines

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The clause restates the ban on tobacco vending machines in England and Wales. This prohibition came into force in 2011 in England and 2012 in Wales through regulations made under the Children and Young Persons (Protection from Tobacco) Act 1991, which made it an offence for anyone who manages or controls premises to have a tobacco vending machine available for use. The offence applied to selling both tobacco products and herbal smoking products from a vending machine. Herbal smoking products were included due to their harmful nature when smoked.

The prohibition was originally introduced because tobacco vending machines were largely unsupervised and allowed under-age access to tobacco. In 2010, 8% of 11 to 15-year-olds who regularly smoked said that vending machines were a usual source of cigarettes. This policy has successfully reduced smoking rates among young people and has been effective at enabling the age of sale restrictions to be implemented and enforced properly.

The existing legislation has been restated to provide a coherent narrative in the Bill on tobacco measures and to assist with the tidying of the statute book. I therefore commend the clause to the Committee.

Preet Kaur Gill Portrait Preet Kaur Gill
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We of course support the aims of this clause, which as the Minister said, effectively restates regulations that were introduced under the previous Labour Government, making the person who controls or is responsible for the management of premises where a vending machine is located liable to commit an offence if tobacco sales are made.

We are concerned about how easily children could access tobacco from vending machines, and the availability of tobacco from machines undermines efforts by adult smokers to quit. As the Minister said, when Labour introduced these regulations, evidence showed that vending machines were a usual source of cigarettes for 12% of young people aged 11 to 15 who were regular smokers. I venture that is 0% now, so the measure has been effective. Why has she decided to re-enact existing law on that matter through the Bill, given the existing regulations?

On a wider point, the purpose of those regulations was to stop children readily accessing tobacco products, but I note that the Bill contains no similar provisions on the availability of other vaping and nicotine products through vending machines. I would be surprised if her officials had not looked at this issue, but there is no mention of vending machines in the entire 164-page impact assessment, despite reports of new vending machines being introduced in England that include an automated age-verification feature.

I am keen to hear the Minister’s thinking on that point. Could vending machines undermine other regulations in the Bill that are providing powers to regulate vape and nicotine product points of sale and displays, as well as reinforcing and closing the loopholes on the age of sale?

--- Later in debate ---
Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The purpose of clause 3, as with a lot of the clauses that we will debate in line-by-line consideration of the Bill, is to tidy up the statute book for the whole tobacco regime, both to align all four nations and to make sure there is a clear understanding of the law where it relates to tobacco, tobacco products and vaping. The fundamental purpose is to tidy up the statute book by restating it with clarity at this critical time.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham made a point about vaping and vending machines. As she will be aware, the Government are taking powers in the Bill to look at issues such as location of sale, packaging and flavours. It was felt that it was important to have further consultation under those powers to look at issues such as whether vaping products should be sold in vending machines. It will be debated at a future time under those regulations. The key point is that we have clarity in the Bill.

Caroline Johnson Portrait Dr Johnson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for that information. She talks about location of sale. I understood location of sale to refer to a geographical location, rather than a method of sale, such as through vending machines. Could she be clearer on that point?

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will get back to my hon. Friend on that point, which is a good one. This clause and many others are intended to tidy up the statute book, rather than to introduce new subjects that would be more appropriately considered somewhere else.

Kirsten Oswald Portrait Kirsten Oswald
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I wonder whether I can reflect some of the Minister’s words back to her. She talks about clause 3 providing clarity, but I am afraid that I do not think it provides clarity—it adds a degree of confusion. This is the Tobacco and Vapes Bill, and it is reasonable that people look for measures relating to both those products. It adds an unwelcome level of confusion for us to deal so differently with vapes.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her views. As I said earlier, I will take away all the views expressed in Committee and reflect on them. I am grateful to her for her comments.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 3 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 4

Sale of unpackaged cigarettes

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

With this it will be convenient to debate clause 38 stand part.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Clauses 4 and 38 restate that it is an offence if tobacco retailers do not sell cigarettes in the packaging in which they are supplied. Selling unpackaged cigarettes is currently an offence in England, Wales and Scotland under the Children and Young Persons (Protection from Tobacco) Act 1991. The prohibition was originally introduced to reduce smoking among children, because there was evidence that children were purchasing single cigarettes. As with clause 3, we have included these provisions to help to tidy up the legislation related to the age of sale for tobacco products, so that it is clear for tobacco retailers, enforcement agencies and other relevant parties across the UK.

The clauses ensure that the sale of loose cigarettes continues to be prohibited and that cigarettes are sold in the appropriate packaging. Additionally, clause 38 inserts the definition of “retail packaging”, aligning with the definition used in England and Wales. I commend the clauses to the Committee.

Preet Kaur Gill Portrait Preet Kaur Gill
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Clause 4 is another that re-enacts existing law that we support. The sale of unpackaged cigarettes is a practice used to short-circuit the enforcement of age of sale law and other regulations such as flavour bans, and only benefits the illicit trade.

Particularly now that the Government have introduced the track and trace system, packaging is useful in monitoring the flow and patterns in the trade in tobacco products around the country. However, it is notable that the clause opts to restate the law’s focus on cigarettes instead of other products. In 1991, the Government faced a lot of opposition from Members on their Back Benches when they proposed to include cigars in the definition, so can the Minister tell us why she has not considered extending the provisions and treating other tobacco products in the same way? Can she reassure me that trading standards has not found instances of, for example, cigars or hand-rolling tobacco being kept and sold unpackaged, and that that does not have the potential to be a loophole that will later need to be closed?

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I support the points that have already been made, but I will not repeat them, because they have been made eloquently.

Why is the fine in clause 4(2) only at level 3, whereas elsewhere in the legislation the fines are at level 4? We know that cigarettes being sold as single items, and packs being broken up and sold in that way, encourages people to smoke. We also know that they will be targeted at children and young people, as well as people in greater deprivation.

There are 14.5 million people in our country who are living in poverty, and there is a much higher prevalence of smoking in that population. The increase in the price of tobacco products has been a major determinant of how much people smoke and whether people smoke at all. It therefore seems perverse that the fine applied to breaking up cigarette packs is less than that applied elsewhere in the Bill, where there is a level 4 fine. Can the Minister explain the reasoning behind dropping the level of fine? Why is it not in line with the other measures in the Bill?

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I do not have all the answers to hon. Members’ questions. The purpose of the clause is to restate and clarify the statute book, so the answer to many of the “Why haven’t you done this or that?” questions is that the intention was to tidy up the statute book rather than address all the other potential issues that could be solved. I will certainly come back to hon. Members with the answers to their questions.

As colleagues will appreciate, there are thousands of potential add-ons to the legislation, but it is important to remember that the core purpose of the Bill is to create the smoke-free generation. On those well-made points and suggestions, I do not know whether they were considered and ruled out or whether they were not considered, but I will come back to hon. Members with answers.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 4 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 5

Age of sale notice at point of sale: England

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Clause 6 stand part.

Clause 42 stand part.

Clause 50 stand part.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Clauses 5 and 6 introduce a requirement for age of sale notices in England and Wales to align with the new age of sale for tobacco products. Additionally, clause 42 provides Scottish Ministers and clause 50 provides the Department of Health in Northern Ireland with the powers to make provisions about warning statements. Warning statements are notices that reflect the new age of sale requirements. Age of sale notices currently must state in a prominent position:

“It is illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18”.

Clauses 5 and 6 update the wording of the notices so that they now reflect the requirements of the new age of sale. They will therefore state:

“It is illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born on or after 1 January 2009”,

alongside the Welsh translation of the statement in Wales.

Additionally, under clauses 5 and 6, the Secretary of State and Welsh Ministers have been granted powers to introduce further requirements on the size or appearance of the notice. This allows for colour requirements and other changes to be introduced in the future should they be needed. Clauses 42 and 50 provide Scottish Ministers and the Department of Health in Northern Ireland with the same powers to set requirements.

Similar powers on the appearance of the age of sale notices have previously been included in legislation and regulations have been made, but these powers broaden the scope of the provisions. We do not anticipate requiring further amendments beyond the text of the age of sale notices prior to the change in the age of sale.

The updated wording on age of sale notices will support tobacco retailers in implementing the new age of sale restrictions by helping to clarify and underline it for customers and staff. I therefore commend the clauses to the Committee.

Preet Kaur Gill Portrait Preet Kaur Gill
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I support the clause. For consistency and public acceptability, it is important that there is clear and consistent messaging to help the public understand the changes. It is already a requirement for premises to display notices to sell tobacco to under-18s, so I cannot see there being any issue in the implementation of the clause. Indeed, it is in the interests of retailers to have standardised notices across shops as we know that asking for ID is an issue that can cause customers to give shop workers grief at the till. When someone can say, “I am sorry, but it is the law and I could be fined or even have my ability to sell these products taken away,” that will greatly aid them in their job.

When customers can see that there is consistency across all retailers and that there is not the scope to twist anyone’s arm or get the impression that the issue is not taken seriously, we will see more people follow the rules. As we would expect, the responses to questions in the consultation were overwhelmingly supportive, with opposition mainly limited to arguments against the progressive rise in the age of sale.

Will the Minister comment on the consideration she has given to other forms of words, some of which she mentioned? Should the wording of the notice be limited to the focus on the age of sale and not, for example, proxy sales? Although one is the responsibility of the retailer and the other of the customer, would it not reinforce the understanding of the law and make people think twice about committing that offence? Will she set out the Government’s thinking on that? However, I support the clause.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Lady makes a fair point. The clarity of the single message is, on balance, considered to be more important. If it is absolutely clear that products may not be sold to anyone who meets the 1 January 2009 criterion, that clarity and simplicity makes the message more punchy.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 5 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 7

Sale of vaping products to under 18s

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Clauses 8 and 9 stand part.

Clause 44 stand part

Clause 51 stand part.

Government amendment 25.

Clause 53 stand part.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Before I speak to the clauses, I want to set out, for the purposes of clarity, what we mean when we refer to vapes. Different terminology is used in law, depending on whether we are referring to legislation for England and Wales, for Scotland or for Northern Ireland. However, although there may be minor differences in terminology, the products are the same. When referring to vapes, e-cigarettes or nicotine vapour products, I will use the generic term “vapes” throughout.

Vaping is never recommended for children. It risks addiction and unknown long-term health impacts while their lungs and brains are still developing. These clauses are important to ensure that vaping products and nicotine products cannot easily be accessed by children.

Clause 7 will mean that it continues to be an offence to sell a nicotine vape to a person under the age of 18 in England and Wales, and anyone found guilty of the offence will be liable to pay a fine of up to £2,500 if convicted. The clause will also extend that age of sale restriction to non-nicotine vapes, as we know that children are accessing those products. The provision on non-nicotine vapes will come into force in both England and Wales six months after the Bill receives Royal Assent, to allow retailers time to introduce the measure. The clause provides businesses with certainty about whom they may legally sell products to, and reinforces our health advice that children should never vape.

Clause 8 will mean that it continues to be an offence for a person aged 18 or over to buy, or attempt to buy, a nicotine vape on behalf of a person under the age of 18. The clause will also extend those restrictions to non-nicotine vapes. Non-nicotine vapes may be used as a gateway for children to start using nicotine vapes, which is why the clause extends the scope of the current restrictions to include non-nicotine vaping products.

Clause 9 will close an existing loophole and make it an offence to give away a vaping product, or a coupon that can later be redeemed for a vaping product, to someone under the age of 18 in England and Wales. Given the clear and unambiguous health advice that children should not vape, and the fact that under-18s cannot legally be sold a nicotine vape, it is completely unacceptable that the industry is not prohibited from giving free samples of vapes to children. That loophole needs to be closed to ensure that we can protect children from addiction and potential health harms.

Clause 44 will amend Scottish legislation to extend existing regulation-making powers to prohibit or restrict the free distribution and nominal pricing of vapes to cover nicotine products such as nicotine pouches. Regulation-making powers on the sale of nicotine products to under-18s, on proxy purchasing and on free distribution to under-18s are provided for England and Wales in clause 10 and will be discussed separately.

Similarly, clause 51 will give the Department of Health in Northern Ireland regulation-making powers to prohibit the sale of non-nicotine vaping products to persons under 18. That will align with measures in the Bill for England and Wales and with measures already in place in Scotland for this offence. To ensure alignment across the UK, clause 53 will provide the Department of Health in Northern Ireland with regulation-making powers to prohibit the free distribution of nicotine products and non-nicotine vaping products to those under the age of 18. I commend clauses 7 to 9, 44, 51 and 53 to the Committee.

Government amendment 25 to clause 53 was tabled at the request of the Health Minister in the Northern Ireland Executive. It will change the mode of trial and maximum penalty for an offence of free distribution of nicotine products or non-nicotine vaping products in Northern Ireland, removing the potential for anyone convicted of the offence to be imprisoned. Instead, on conviction, the penalty will be a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale in Northern Ireland. That small change will align the penalty that could be imposed with the penalty for the age of sale offence for vapes in Northern Ireland. I am sure that the Committee will agree that that is a more proportionate penalty for the offence. For those reasons, the UK Government accept the amendment.

Preet Kaur Gill Portrait Preet Kaur Gill
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

First, I want to make some general points about these first vaping-related clauses of the Bill. We agree fundamentally with the Government in their efforts to find a balance by phasing out tobacco use and cracking down on youth vaping while being careful not to undermine the proven success of vaping as a stop-smoking aid. There is no doubt, however, that the rise in youth vaping is a serious concern.

My main question about the Government’s response is “What took them so long?” Labour proposed measures more than two years ago to stop vapes being branded and marketed to appeal to children, but that was blocked by the Government. I am glad that the Government have listened to us. I hope that they will continue to do so as we debate the Bill; I firmly believe that some of its provisions can still be strengthened.

I am pleased by the inclusion of clause 7. Coupled with clause 34, which defines a vaping product in a way that includes non-nicotine vapes, it will tackle a substantial loophole that we have been calling on the Government to close for a long time. Youth vaping is a serious and growing issue. In 2021, Labour voted for an amendment to the Health and Care Bill to crack down on the marketing of vapes to children. Since then, according to the most recent survey by Action on Smoking and Health, the number of children aged 11 to 17 who are vaping regularly has more than trebled. That is more than 140,000 British children. Meanwhile, one in five children have now tried vaping. In clause 7, a couple of issues therefore intertwine.

I think most people would be surprised to learn that it is legal to sell non-nicotine vapes to children, which could so obviously be designed as a gateway to addiction to the real thing, as the Minister mentioned. It is doubly concerning when we think about the illicit vapes that end up on British shelves. Testing by Inter Scientific, from which we heard last week, has found that a considerable percentage of seized vaping products that it tested contained nicotine, even when they were marketed as 0%.

That is highly concerning. It means that for the past several years, we may have seen a spate of accidental addictions among children. According to survey data from ASH, 9.5% of vapers aged 11 to 17 exclusively puff on so-called 0% nicotine vapes. Analysis of that and of data from the Office for National Statistics suggests that at least 40,000 child vapers could have been exposed to nicotine-containing vapes without their consent, becoming accidentally addicted by illegal products masquerading as nicotine-free that, under existing regulations, they are allowed to buy. That is an important testament to why not just regulation, but effective enforcement— especially over the illicit market—is vital to the success of the Bill.

The two-tier system of regulation for nicotine and non-nicotine vapes is not robust. The exclusion of non-nicotine vapes from the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 is important for a few reasons. Primarily, it is confusing and more difficult to enforce the rules on the ground if it is not clear which products contain nicotine and which do not. As 0% nicotine vapes are out of the scope of the current regulations, they do not need to be notified through the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency process, on which trading standards officers often rely to identify illicit products. I raised that point with the Minister in a debate in January and am keen to seek clarity. Does the Minister think that all producers should have to notify vape products, regardless of nicotine content, to the MHRA?

I note that clause 71 provides the power to extend the notification process to non-nicotine vapes, but the Government have not, to my knowledge, explicitly expressed a view on the matter. Will the Minister do so now? In theory, including non-nicotine vapes in the notification process should allow for a complete database of products. Currently, it is difficult to identify which products are legal or illegal, which really undermines enforcement action.

As we heard in evidence, the impact of vaping products on the developing bodies of children has the potential to be very harmful. It is vital that we take every step to make sure that our systems of regulation and enforcement are as robust as possible to stop a new generation of products hooking our children on nicotine and harming their long-term health. We absolutely support the clause, and I am keen to hear the Government’s view on the issues that I have raised.

I have no substantial comments to make about clause 8. It is a common-sense reapplication of the principles of clause 2, which we have debated and which I support.

Clause 9 will finally address a loophole that I regret to say the Opposition raised in an amendment to the Health and Care Bill in 2021; I am glad that it is now receiving the Government’s attention. Our 2021 amendment would have prohibited the free distribution or sale of any consumer nicotine product to anyone under 18, while allowing the sale or distribution of nicotine replacement therapy licensed for use by under-18s. The then Minister rejected the amendment. To quote my hon. Friend the Member for City of Durham:

“There was no evidence of a serious problem, but the Minister sympathised with the argument for preventive action.”—[Official Report, 22 November 2021; Vol. 704, c. 56.]

Two and a half years later, it is clear what a widespread issue this has become. It goes without saying that Opposition support clause 9, which will close the loophole, as well as clause 44, which will introduce powers for the Scottish Government to extend the existing powers to regulate the free distribution of vapes and other nicotine products such as pouches, as mentioned by the Minister. Likewise, clause 51 will mean that age of sale restrictions can be extended to non-nicotine vaping products.

Finally, clause 53 relates to the free distribution of vapes and nicotine products in Northern Ireland, whether or not they contain nicotine. As I have discussed, I am very concerned that that has presented a loophole that has undermined enforcement, so I support a consistent approach across the United Kingdom. May I ask the Minister to set out what the words “in the course of business” will mean in practice when it comes to the free distribution of harmful products, given that we would expect any person caught out by the provision to argue that there is no “business” in giving away something for free? Of course, we know that that is not true in the case of addictive products, but I will be grateful if the Minister can reassure me that the clause will do in practice what it needs to do. Can she also please reassure me that it will not prohibit under-18s from accessing nicotine replacement therapies?

I reiterate that the Opposition support these clauses, but I am very interested in the Minister’s views on how the Bill should affect the notification process for vapes.

--- Later in debate ---
Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for the point she made. Certainly, I did highlight that transitional benefit of moving from smoking to vaping to, hopefully, stopping altogether. However, we must also highlight that vaping is not without risk, and we need to give that serious consideration. I am just concerned that the Government are slightly light, shall I say, in terms of their concern about vaping, in order to drive down the smoking. I absolutely understand that, because smoking kills, but I just think that we could be on the “too light” side. I know that it is about balance, but I hope that we can reflect on that during the course of the Bill.

I want to draw out one question that I have about clause 9 and giving away vapes. I certainly understand why the measures would be applied to industry, but I want to ask about public health measures that could be deployed. I recognise that the clause is about under-18s, but unfortunately, despite the current legislation, we know that many people under 18 smoke, and we obviously need to ensure that they stop and move into a safer space. The Government have been very much pressing the idea that vaping is a route out of smoking. Does the Public Health Minister see vaping as a means to help people under the age of 18 to stop smoking, or will they have no access to vapes? I would just like some clarity around that. Clearly, there are other smoking-cessation programmes and products available, but it would be useful to know the answer to that question. If vaping is to be used in that way, and clinicians are to be able in future to prescribe or indeed provide vapes for young people to stop smoking—if that was the only tool—we need to understand whether we are to have a blanket ban in the Bill. It would be very useful to understand that.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Once again, I thank all hon. Members for their thoughtful and considered remarks —I really do appreciate them. Essentially, the questions are pretty much around the product notification and the availability of quit aids to under-18s. Hon. Members may not have spotted this, but the notification of vapes to the MHRA is something on which we are taking powers. There will be a further consultation on that point because it did not come under the scope of the original consultation. We will have the powers to require notification of vapes to the MHRA.

The other point that has been raised by a few colleagues is, “How do we help under-18s to stop smoking?” Under the MHRA, there is licensed nicotine replacement therapy, which is licensed for 12 to 18-year-olds. Of course, all under-18s can go to their local stop-smoking services.

To the point from the hon. Member for York Central about whether young people should be able to access vaping as a quit aid, my instinct would be, “No, absolutely not,” and I think that that would be her instinct also. However, I must slightly correct the record: it is certainly not the Government’s position that vaping is in any way safe; it is merely less harmful than smoking. I would reiterate that if you don’t smoke, don’t vape. And children should never vape, so they should not be turning to vaping, even as a quit aid. In my view, that would also be the thin end of the wedge, because people would simply say, “Well, I am only vaping because I am trying to stop smoking.” I cannot imagine that ever being a suitable way to help children to stop.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

One issue that has been raised in the debate is non-nicotine vapes and the potential to get people on to vaping, followed by the escalation, presumably, to nicotine and then, potentially, as has been mentioned, to cigarettes. What action will my right hon. Friend take—although not necessarily in these clauses—to make sure that that escalation path cannot be followed?

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend raises an important point. The legislation covers non-nicotine vapes, and unfortunately, as has been pointed out, a number of illicit so-called non-nicotine vapes have up to 30% nicotine content, which has completely undermined the argument for those. Quite clearly, they are designed by the industry to get people hooked on the idea of vaping so that it can get people on to higher nicotine levels in due course. That is why the legislation covers non-nicotine vapes and all tobacco and vaping products.

Preet Kaur Gill Portrait Preet Kaur Gill
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What more can the Minister do about the growing illicit market in vapes? The MHRA’s evidence was interesting; it said that a lot of what is in the notification process is considered illicit, but the Minister did not have the figures and she was going to provide those to us. There is an issue there in terms of triangulation and what trading standards has found to be illicit and not compliant with the notification process. At the moment, the MHRA does not have the powers to withdraw those products; it is down to the provider themselves to remove them from the notification process and then to become compliant and to reapply again. That does not seem to be the right approach, because the manufacturers are marking their own homework in terms of what they are notifying. The Minister also recognised that what might have been notified and what actually comes into the country are very different. There has to be a better way of ensuring that we grip the illicit vapes market—hence the requirement for the notification process to include non-nicotine vapes that contain nicotine.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The key point is that legal vaping products must be notified to the MHRA. If they are compliant, they go ahead. If they are not compliant, they go away and make themselves compliant. That is how the system works at the moment. With illicit vapes, it is an entirely different issue. I can point the hon. Lady to the evidence. When the age of smoking was raised from 16 to 18, the number of illicit cigarettes reduced significantly, so it is our expectation and hope that the same will be true with illicit vapes.

At the same time, as the hon. Lady will be aware, there was an announcement to impose an excise duty on vapes. A benefit of that, which she and I remarked on after the evidence sessions last week, is that we hope that that would enable His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to enter the vape market into the track and trace that already exists for cigarettes and therefore to have much better control over what products come on to the market. I am sure we will talk further about that during the passage of the Bill.

Preet Kaur Gill Portrait Preet Kaur Gill
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On that basis, does the Minister think that the MHRA should have the powers to test a percentage of products that come on to the market, given that we already know that what is being notified to it is non-compliant and given what is coming into the country? I appreciate her comments on the excise duty, but does she have a timescale for when we could see a track and trace system, as we have for tobacco, extended to vapes?

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As the hon. Lady will know, the MHRA is not an enforcement body; enforcement is for trading standards. As I mentioned earlier, there will be new resources for trading standards, as well as new training and guidelines. Also, fines will go direct to local authorities, which employ enforcement officers, so there will be a huge ramping-up of enforcement on illicit vapes, non-compliant vapes and so on. That is the place for enforcement.

On the MHRA and notification of other types of vapes, there will be powers, and the consultation will take place in due course.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

While the Minister is doing the work on vapes, will she also look at nicotine pouches, which are incredibly concerning? We have heard that the strength of the nicotine in pouches far exceeds that in vapes. People are therefore getting a very high dose of nicotine and are sometimes not aware of the level they are getting.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am frantically looking through my pack here. Clause 10 covers nicotine pouches, so we will come on to that—[Interruption.] The Whip is saying it will be after lunch, if that is not too much of a sneaky “get out of jail” card. With the hon. Lady’s acceptance, I will defer that until later.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 7 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 8 and 9 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Aaron Bell.)

Tobacco and Vapes Bill (Sixth sitting)

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

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Committee stage
Thursday 9th May 2024

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Tobacco and Vapes Bill 2023-24 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 9 May 2024 - (9 May 2024)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Tobacco and Vapes Bill 2023-24 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

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None Portrait The Chair
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With this it will be convenient to discuss clause 43 stand part.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Dame Andrea Leadsom)
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Welcome back, everyone.

Clause 10 provides regulation-making powers for the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care in England, and Welsh Ministers, to extend the offences relating to the sale, purchase and free distribution of vapes to other consumer nicotine products, such as nicotine pouches. Clause 43 gives Scottish Ministers the equivalent regulation-making powers. Part 3 of the Bill provides for similar measures for Northern Ireland, which will be discussed separately. The measures will ensure that we have a consistent approach across our nations to protecting children from accessing other nicotine products and being exposed to the health harms and addictive nature of nicotine. They also address a point that was raised earlier by hon. Members.

Nicotine is a highly addictive drug, and we must not replace one generation addicted to nicotine with another. Giving up nicotine is very difficult, because the body has to get used to functioning without it. Withdrawal symptoms can include cravings, irritability, anxiety, trouble concentrating, headaches and other mental symptoms. Evidence also suggests that the brain in adolescence is more sensitive to the effects of nicotine, so there could be additional risks for young people.

Under current legislation, there are no mandatory age restrictions on other consumer nicotine products. Although data suggests that the use of other nicotine products is low overall, there is a growing trend of use, particularly among adolescent boys, and there are indications that industry is beginning to encourage the uptake of other nicotine products. As we work to tackle youth vaping, it is important that there are not loopholes that can be exploited to put children at risk of nicotine addiction through the use of other nicotine products. That is why we are including powers to extend age of sale, proxy purchasing and age verification requirements to other nicotine products.

Clauses 10 and 43 are an important part of our work in ensuring that the collective package of measures in the Bill succeeds in protecting children from potential health harms. I therefore commend them to the Committee.

Preet Kaur Gill Portrait Preet Kaur Gill (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab/Co-op)
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We support clause 10 as a tidying provision that ensures that the additional restrictions on the sale and free distribution of vaping products to under-18s can be extended to other nicotine products in England that have the potential to cause similar harms. It provides that the measures in clauses 7 to 9 can be extended to emerging products such as nicotine pouches, and clause 43 makes similar provisions for Scotland.

It is clearly not right that addictive nicotine products can be sold and freely distributed to children. Awareness of the products is growing, and legislation needs to keep up. According to research by Action on Smoking and Health, awareness and usage of nicotine pouches is higher among younger adults, and just over 5% of 18 to 24-year-olds have tried one. As with vapes, the marketing of nicotine pouches is likely to be attractive to children and young people, with similar branding to sweets and soft drinks. At present, a loophole means that it is not illegal to sell them to children, so I support the measures to close it.

Will the Minister set out her intentions with regard to the use of the new powers, and what conversations she has had with devolved nations on the issue? Will she also explain the Government’s view on the potential harms from the use of nicotine pouches? Does she believe that these products could have value as a stop-smoking aid, like vaping? What merit does she see in including the products in regulations similar to the tobacco-related products regulations for vapes? If she intends to introduce regulations on nicotine pouches, can she set out her intended timescale for that?

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Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
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I wholeheartedly endorse almost everything I have heard. I share hon. Members’ concerns and applaud them for their commitment to solving the issue of nicotine pouches. As my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East rightly pointed out, should the industry find a way around something in the Bill, we would have to legislate again with primary legislation. The right thing to do, therefore, is to take powers to make secondary legislation that gets on top of the issue and future-proofs us, so that right across the United Kingdom we can tackle this appalling scourge: the tobacco industry’s determination to get our children addicted.

Extraordinarily, the tobacco industry dominates the UK nicotine pouches market, and it claims to self-regulate—that is, it claims not to sell to under-18s. That is absolutely extraordinary. A recent study suggests that although nicotine pouch use is low among adults, with roughly one in 400 adults in Great Britain using them, nicotine pouches are increasingly popular with younger, largely male audiences. The Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment has identified gaps in research and flagged that the long-term health harms are not known, but use by non-smokers is likely to be associated with some adverse health effects due to the nicotine.

We all know that other nicotine products need to be clamped down on. We will not need to consult on age of sale restrictions on nicotine products; we will be able to use regulations, hopefully in this Parliament, with implementation from 2025. It is certainly our plan to consult on all of this regulation to get ahead of nicotine pouches and other nicotine products with a view to implementing the regulations in 2025.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell
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I do not know whether the Minister is aware that the strength of the nicotine in these products is excessively high—much higher than in other products—and so they rapidly bring about addiction. When the Government brought forward measures to try to educate the country about alcohol use, they did a comparison. Perhaps it would be helpful to do a comparison about the amount of nicotine that individuals are taking through a nicotine pouch, because the public would be alarmed to know that we are talking about their taking multiple factors of nicotine into their bodies.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
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The hon. Lady is absolutely right; they vary from 2 mg to 150 mg per pouch. I imagine that that variation would make it hard to provide a complete comparison, but she is quite right that education will be a big part of the implementation.

Caroline Johnson Portrait Dr Johnson
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I think that most parents in my constituency would be horrified to think that nicotine pouches are available for sale to children. I appreciate that the Bill takes the power to ban nicotine products other than vaping products at a later date, but I would grateful if the Minister could explain why we should not ban the sale of nicotine to under-18s full stop. I do not understand why and in what circumstances anyone would ever wish under-18s to have nicotine sold to them.

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Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
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My hon. Friend makes a good point. The Bill takes powers to bring forward the age of sale restriction, and that in itself will not require further consultation. It is my expectation that, if possible, that will be brought forward in this Parliament. However, as has been explained, if we put something in the Bill, the industry will get around it by saying, for example, “This doesn’t contain nicotine”—except it does, as we have already seen.

The other thing I want to raise with hon. Members is that clauses 61 to 63, which will grant the ability to restrict flavours, packaging and location in store, will also apply to nicotine products. Those measures are clearly designed to reduce their attractiveness to children.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell
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In response to my questions and accepting the clause as it is written, can the Minister give the Committee an assurance about when the regulations will be brought forward to ensure that products such as nicotine pouches will come within scope of the Bill?

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
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All I can say to the hon. Lady is that she has heard me, and I am determined to bring that forward as soon as possible. There are good reasons for not putting the provision on the face of the Bill, which are to do with future-proofing. I can only give her my absolute assurance that, as soon as humanly possible, I will bring the regulations forward for consultation where necessary and for implementation where not.

Caroline Johnson Portrait Dr Johnson
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I am grateful for the Minister’s answer, but I am still a bit confused. I can see the point she makes about the industry and the need to remain flexible; that is really important and why we support clause 10 —particularly in relation to sections 8 and 9, which are about the purchase of products on behalf of children. I welcome the fact that later in the Bill we will see restrictions on the appeal of the packaging of vaping and tobacco products, which will help to make them less attractive to children.

However, I still do not understand why any product containing nicotine would need to be available to children and why that would not be on the face of the Bill. If we were to specify nicotine pouches in the Bill, I see that that could be got around by calling them “nicotine gum” or something else, but if it said, “Nicotine—full stop—cannot be sold to under-18s,” that would be difficult to work around, because no nicotine product could be sold to under-18s. I expect that if I did a survey of parents in my constituency, most would presume that that was already the law.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
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My hon. Friend makes a good point, which I will take away and reflect on. We have obviously already aired the discussion about the benefit of taking powers as opposed to putting something in primary legislation, but she makes a good point and I will come back to her.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman
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One of the challenges we are talking about is not only nicotine itself—we had medical evidence last week to suggest the damage it does to the body, let alone its delivery mechanisms—but the mixture of different routes by which it gets into the body. At the moment, evidence is emerging about the damage from the use of different accelerants to get nicotine into the body. Will the Minister consider what may need to be done about those particular types of chemicals and other methods that may need regulation to outlaw them, because of the damage that they do particularly to children and to all other vapers?

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
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My hon. Friend makes a really good point. We have heard about some of the heavy metals and other carcinogens in vapes. The Bill is so comprehensive in banning things such as cigarette papers, herbal cigarettes and so on precisely because of other things that people put into their lungs. As the chief medical officer for England said, it is fine to drink a glass of water but have you ever tried inhaling one? It is not such a pleasant experience. He made the point that although it might be perfectly safe to eat a non-toxic flavour, it could be very different to inhale it.

As we heard last week, the fact of the matter is that there simply is not yet the evidence to say what some of these products do to human beings when inhaled. It is absolutely right that we protect children from those effects, hence this Bill. I hope that one of the outcomes of this legislation will be that we get far more evidence via independent research into the potential harms of first-hand vaping and other consumption of nicotine as well as second-hand consumption, which I know a number of hon. Members are interested in. I am sure we will come back to that in due course.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 10 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 11

Displays of vaping and nicotine products

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

None Portrait The Chair
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With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Clause 45 stand part.

Clause 54 stand part.

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
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Clause 11 provides a regulation-making power to allow the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care in England and the Welsh Ministers in Wales to introduce future restrictions or requirements on the display of vaping and nicotine products, and their packaging and pricing where they are offered for sale. Clause 45 provides the same regulation-making power to Scottish Ministers, and clause 54 provides the power to Northern Ireland.

At this point, I would like to reiterate our plans for future vaping regulations, including on vape displays. I have made a commitment to consult on future regulations. Any regulations made will be accompanied by clear impact assessments. We will introduce new regulations as soon as possible following the passage of the Bill.

We simply cannot replace one generation addicted to nicotine with another, and we know that giving up nicotine is so difficult because the body must get used to functioning without it. Withdrawal symptoms can include cravings, irritability, anxiety, trouble concentrating, headaches and other mental symptoms. Despite this very clear health advice, there has been a significant and alarming rise in the number of children vaping in this country. Data shows that the number of young people vaping has tripled in just the last three years, and now one in five children has used a vape. That is alarming and unacceptable.

Evidence shows us that vapes are currently far too easily accessible to children within shops. Vapes are sometimes displayed alongside sweets and confectionery in retail environments, and often promoted in shopfront windows. These products are too easily seen and too readily available to children, and we have a duty to protect our children from harm. These clauses therefore provide regulation-making powers for new restrictions on where and how vapes and nicotine products can be displayed within a retail setting, and ensure that we are aligned right across the United Kingdom. The display restrictions will include both packaging and pricing. Future regulations on point-of-sale displays will help to reduce the ease of access to vapes to children, and the degree to which vapes can be targeted at children. These are important clauses to help us tackle youth vaping and to protect children from addiction and future health harms.

Preet Kaur Gill Portrait Preet Kaur Gill
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We welcome the inclusion of these powers to regulate the display of nicotine and vaping products in retail settings. All of us have seen what has been happening in some shops: as the Minister said, colourful products that look like confectionery kept next to the pick ’n’ mix at pocket money prices. I appreciate that some in the sector have concerns that regulations on point-of-sale displays need to be balanced in respect of their impact on retailers, given existing restrictions on products like tobacco and some of the associated costs. In my view, however, there is no argument against the inclusion of the powers themselves.

I heard from a retail worker at a major supermarket chain that they are paid by the vaping companies to put displays of vapes in prominent locations in their stores. These are often far away from the tills, where there is little to no oversight by staff. I was told that where children once shoplifted sweets, they are now going straight for these products. One worries that the vape companies are almost happy to lose them, if they can get a new customer addicted who they know will come back for more.

None the less, I want to highlight that there appears to be broad support for some restrictions on the display of vapes among retailers. I note that in the Action on Smoking and Health survey of retailers in England and Wales, 80% of tobacco retailers supported prohibiting advertising and promotion of vapes or vaping products in store, and requiring them to be put behind the counter; only 12% were opposed. I would be grateful if the Minister outlined whether it is her firm view—she has alluded to it—that vapes should be kept behind the counter, or whether display should be prohibited entirely, which seems to be what the Government have looked at in their impact assessment. Alternatively, does she feel that further consultation is necessary?

I would also like to raise other questions about the potential for such regulations to be undermined. Clause 34 of the Bill provides an interpretation of terms used in part 1 of the Bill, but it does not define “retailer”. I therefore wonder whether other forms of display for sale would be caught under the powers as drafted here. I am thinking of vape vending machines, which are not in widespread use now but could be in the future.

Have her officials looked at that issue? Given the introduction of some vending machines with automated age verification features, has the Minister considered prohibiting vape vending machines, as has happened in Scotland? We can easily see how this situation could undermine the consistency of regulations on displays.

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Caroline Johnson Portrait Dr Johnson
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I rise in support of clause 11 on restricting the display of vaping and nicotine products. I have been horrified to see that after the Government, with good intentions, made it difficult for children to see sweets at the counter, to reduce pester power and help protect them from obesity, the sweets were in many cases replaced by vapes. The Government are doing exactly the right thing in taking the powers to look at displays. As has been mentioned, the ability and flexibility of doing so through regulations means that we can move swiftly when the industry seeks to get round the latest rules. I think that is great.

I have two examples for the Minister. Would they be covered by paragraph (1)(c)? The first is a mini-mart in Grantham. The entire shop window is covered in pictures of things such as Kinder chocolate, Haribos, fruit and very large-size vape devices in bright colours. I was in WH Smith in Nottingham last weekend; this is a shop that sells children’s books, children’s toys, sweets and children’s stationery, yet at the till there is a very large video display of vape adverts immediately behind the shopkeeper’s head. Will these two types of advertising and display be covered by the regulations?

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Dame Andrea Leadsom
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Again, I appreciate the sentiments expressed and associate myself with all of them. The hon. Member for York Central requested that we put in primary legislation that vapes must be behind the counter. It is clear from the impact assessment and the consultation that that is the intention. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham points out, the reason for taking the powers is that doing so allows us to stay ahead of the next place they might be sold, for instance outside the shop, on a bus or outside a school—we can imagine all sorts of other ideas. It is important to have the regulations to get ahead of other ideas, rather than saying, “They shall be behind the counter.” That is why we are taking regulatory powers right across the Bill, so that answer holds for all the areas in which we are taking powers: we are taking them to stay ahead of an industry that has shown itself to be very imaginative and brutal in its determination to addict children. We need to stay one step ahead, and that is the plan.