This site is intended for health professionals only

Bill to prevent smoking among children introduced in parliament

Bill to prevent smoking among children introduced in parliament
By Beth Gault
21 March 2024

A bill to protect children and future generations from the harmful effects of smoking has been introduced to parliament.

The legislation includes powers to restrict vape flavours and packaging aimed at children, and to change how they are displayed in retailers. Those turning 15 or younger this year will also never be legally sold tobacco if the tobacco and vapes bill is voted into law. Though smoking itself will not be criminalised.

It is part of the government’s pledge to create a ‘smokefree generation’.

Earlier this month, researchers called for the closure of loopholes which allow smokers to use menthol-flavoured cigarettes despite their ban.

Health secretary, Victoria Atkins, said: ‘Smoking kills. It takes around 80,000 lives in the UK every year and causes 1 in 4 cancer-related deaths. It’s therefore only right we take robust action to protect future generations from these harmful products.

‘Today is a significant milestone, representing the single biggest preventable health policy in a generation with a first-of-its-kind bill aimed at preventing our children and young people from falling prey to a lifetime of nicotine addiction.

‘This landmark legislation will ensure generations to come will have healthier lives, while freeing up NHS capacity by removing the huge pressure caused by smoking-related illness.’

Scott Crosby, associate director for the Humber and North Yorkshire Centre for Excellence in Tobacco Control, said: ‘I am thrilled that the bill has passed its first reading. Since the Prime Minister’s announcement in October, the Centre for Excellence in Tobacco Control has been steadfastly supportive, recognising that safeguarding our children from this harm is an investment in our nation’s future.

‘There is no safe way to use tobacco, so it is important that the legislation applies to all types of tobacco products, including combustible, smokeless and heated. We urge every member of parliament to endorse this groundbreaking legislation.’

Dr Layla McCay, director of policy at the NHS Confederation said they welcomed the bill as a ‘step in the right direction’.

‘Smoking causes 76,000 deaths a year in the UK, so we know radical measures need to be put in place if we want to get the nation healthier,’ she said.

‘We hope the new Bill is supported through Parliament, as in the long-term it will save thousands of lives and close the gap on these inequalities.’

She added: ‘It is important to recognise the influence ICSs can have in their areas by helping bridge the gaps to ensure that everyone has equal access to the resources they need to quit smoking and lead healthier, longer lives. Systems can also assist in engaging their communities in important conversations about health policy that can drive behaviour change.’

Chief executive of The King’s Fund, Sarah Woolnough, said: ‘The phased smoking ban has widespread backing from health and care organisations, and polling shows it’s supported by the majority of adults in England. Implementing the ban would be a crucial step forward in preventing burgeoning poor health in this country, saving lives and reducing health inequalities.

‘This is exactly the sort of bold measure needed to improve the health of the nation, reduce pressure on the NHS and enable people to lead happier, healthier, more productive lives. I hope parliamentarians have the will to pass this potentially game-changing legislation.’

Want news like this straight to your inbox?

Related articles