Creating a smokefree generation and tackling youth vaping: what you need to know

From: Department of Health and Social Care Media Centre
Published: Thu Apr 18 2024

The Prime Minister has set out plans to build a better and brighter future for our children.

This includes the Tobacco and Vapes Bill, which was announced in the King's speech on 7 November 2023 and introduced to Parliament on 20 March 2024. The Bill is now due to have its second reading on 16 April 2024.

The Bill includes a new law to stop children who turn 15 this year or younger from ever legally being sold cigarettes or other tobacco products, alongside measures to crack down on youth vaping and strengthen enforcement of these new laws.

This is in addition to a broader package of measures to tackle youth vaping - including banning the sale and supply of disposable vapes under environmental legislation and the new excise duty on vaping products announced in the Spring Budget.

Here's what you need to know.

What are the key measures that have been announced?

We will create the first smoke-free generation so children turning 15 this year or younger will never be legally sold tobacco. The age of sale will be raised by one year each year to prevent future generations from ever taking up smoking, as there is no safe age to smoke.

To reduce the appeal of vapes to children, we also announced that new powers will be introduced to restrict vape flavours and packaging. The powers will also allow government to change how vapes are displayed in shops.

To crack down on underage sales, the government will also bring in quicker and simpler £100 on the spot fines (fixed penalty fines) for shops in England and Wales which sell tobacco and vapes underage. Local authorities will retain 100% of the proceeds to reinvest into enforcement of this Bill and other existing tobacco and vaping controls. This builds on a maximum £2,500 fine that the courts can already impose.

Vaping alternatives - such as nicotine pouches - will also be outlawed for children who are increasingly turning to these highly addictive substitutes.


Will the new laws impact current smokers?

The new laws will not impact current smokers. If you were born before 1 January 2009 shops will be able to continue selling you cigarettes and tobacco.

Will this lead to an illicit market?

No. History shows that targeted tobacco control measures have a positive impact on tackling the problems of illicit tobacco. For example, when the smoking age was increased from 16 to 18 the number of illicit cigarettes consumed fell by 25%.

The government is also providing additional powers and funding for enforcement to ensure the laws are effective.

How will the legislation be enforced?

Under the Bill, enforcement officers' powers will also be strengthened with new powers in England and Wales to issue 'on the spot fines' of £100 to retailers breaching the law. This will help uphold the new laws and clamp down on underage sales of tobacco and vaping products.

These new powers to issue Fixed Penalty notices are in addition to a maximum £2,500 fine that courts can already impose.

The government will also be providing an additional £30 million a year for enforcement agencies to support work on underage and illicit sales of tobacco products and vapes.

Does this encroach on freedom of choice?

This is not about criminalising those who smoke or preventing anyone who currently smokes from doing so. Smoking will never be illegal and if you currently smoke legally, retailers will continue to be able to sell you cigarettes and other tobacco products.

But no parent wants their child to start smoking. This is about protecting future generations from the harms of smoking, saving thousands of lives and billions for the NHS.

Surely this isn't a big issue - people don't smoke anymore?

Smoking is still the number one preventable cause of death, disability and ill health, causing around 80,000 deaths per year across the UK.

Smoking rates in older teens remain high - over 12% of 16- to 17-year-olds smoke in England and over 30% of under 18 pregnant mother smoke. In recent years, the USA and Australia have seen the proportion of teenagers that smoke increase for the first time in decades.

Tobacco is uniquely harmful - there is no safe level of smoking. No other consumer product, when used as intended, kills two thirds of its long-term users and 75% of smokers would never have started if they had the choice again. It causes 1 in 4 cancer deaths.

Non-smokers are exposed to second-hand smoke - many come to harm through no choice of their own, including children, pregnant women and their babies.

The Bill will save thousands of lives. It will avoid up to 470,000 cases of strokes, heart disease, lung cancer and other lung diseases by 2100.

What about the tax revenue from tobacco?

Smoking costs the economy and wider society £17 billion a year, which far outweighs the income per year that the Treasury receives from taxes on tobacco products.

Smoking costs to our NHS and social care system alone £3 billion every year - this is money that we can reinvest into cutting waiting lists and bolstering frontline care. Almost every minute someone is admitted to hospital because of smoking, and up to 75,000 GP appointments could be attributed to smoking each month - over 100 appointments every hour.

Is any type of tobacco product safe?

There is no safe level of tobacco consumption. All tobacco products are harmful. Making this clear in legislation by including all tobacco products will help regulators, businesses and the public comply with the new laws.

Who has been consulted on this issue?

The government consulted on the measures in the Bill for 8 weeks from 12 October to 6 December 2023.

Nearly 28,000 responses were submitted in total and the majority of respondents (63.2%) agreed with implementing the smokefree generation policy. The consultation response can be viewed here: Creating a smokefree generation and tackling youth vaping: your views - GOV.UK (

The UK is party to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and has an obligation to protect the development of public health policy from the vested interests of the tobacco industry. To meet this obligation, we asked all respondents to disclose whether they have any direct or indirect links to, or receive funding from, the tobacco industry.

In line with the Convention, the views of respondents who disclosed links to the tobacco industry were summarised in the response, but not considered when determining policy.

When will the Smokefree Generation come into force?

The Smokefree Generation policy will come into force in 2027 when current 15-year-olds turn 18. This will mean there will be a significant implementation period between the Bill being passed and the restrictions coming into force.

Will the Bill be enforced UK wide?

Thanks to constructive engagement from colleagues across the Devolved Administrations, these measures will apply not just in England, but across our entire United Kingdom - saving lives and building a brighter future.


What is the danger of children using vapes?

Children should never vape. The number of children using vapes has tripled in the last three years.

The active ingredient in most vapes is nicotine, which when inhaled, is a highly addictive drug. The addictive nature of nicotine means that a user can become dependent on vapes, especially if they use them regularly.

We have a duty to protect children from these potential harms, which is why we will be banning disposable vapes and bringing forward measures in the Bill to restrict vape flavours, displays and packaging. Reusable and refillable vapes will continue to play a valuable role in helping adults to stop smoking.

What about vape displays in shops, packaging and flavours?

Vapes have become highly appealing products for children because of the wide range of flavours, bright colours, use of cartoons and highly visible points of display in shops. Our new legislation will introduce powers to regulate the display of vapes, packaging and flavours.

The purpose of addressing these issues is to prevent the marketing of vaping to children.

Before using these powers, we will be undertaking a further consultation on the specific measures.

What else are you doing to tackle youth vaping?

The measures in the Tobacco and Vapes Bill are part of a broader package of measures to tackle youth vaping - including banning the sale and supply of disposable vapes under environmental legislation and the new excise duty on vaping products announced in the Spring Budget.

Why are disposable vapes an issue?

Being cheap and easy to use, disposable vapes are also the vape of choice for children with 69% of current vapers aged 11 to 17 in Great Britain using disposable vapes (up from 7.7% in 2021). The evidence is clear that vapes should not be used by, or targeted at, children- due to the risk and unknown harms involved. That is why the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has said disposable vapes should be banned.

There are serious environmental concerns over disposable vapes. Over 5 million disposable vapes are either littered or thrown away in general waste every week. This has quadrupled in the last year.

That is why we the UK Government, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government intend to introduce legislation to implement a ban on the sale and supply of disposable vapes. The UK Government will also work with the devolved administrations to explore an import ban.

When will the disposable vape ban come into effect?

England, Scotland and Wales intend to bring in legislation as soon as possible. Any legislation taken forward will allow for an implementation period of at least six months, which takes into consideration concerns that businesses will require time to adapt.

What steps are being taken to address the potential emergence of a black market for disposable vapes?

We will support retailers to implement the new requirements by increasing funding for enforcement - government has announced £30 million extra funding per year for enforcement agencies including HMRC, Trading Standards and Border Force, to tackle the illicit market and underage sales.

Who is going to enforce this ban?

Trading Standards will lead on enforcing the ban within their local area.

It is expected that enforcement authorities would apply civil sanctions in the first instance and a failure to comply may result in authorities prosecuting for a criminal offence subject to a fine only after a failure to comply with a civil sanction.

Are you not worried that a ban on disposable vapes will turn adults towards smoking?

No. Adults who vape responsibly will be able to continue to do so.

We are not banning vapes as a whole, just disposable vapes - given the huge impact they have on the environment. Banning disposables will also prevent young people from accessing them.

Adult vapers will still be able to access refillable and reusable vapes.

We recognise the important part vapes can play in helping people quit smoking. As part of the government's Swap to Stop scheme, almost one in five of all adult smokers in England will have access to a reusable vape kit alongside behavioural support to help them quit the habit and improve health outcomes.

Key facts on smoking and vaping

  • Smoking is the single biggest entirely preventable cause of ill-health, disability and death. It leads to 80,000 deaths a year in the UK, and is responsible for 1 in 4 cancer deaths, and over 70% of lung cancer cases. Smokers lose an average of ten years of life expectancy.
  • Consequently, smoking puts a huge burden on the NHS - almost every minute of every day someone is admitted to hospital with a smoking-related disease and over 100 GP appointments every hour are due to smoking.
  • It also costs the economy and wider society £17 billion a year - this is equivalent to 6.9p in every £1 of income tax received, and equivalent to the annual salaries of over half a million nurses, 390,000 GPs, 400,000 police officers, or 400 million GP appointments.
  • Most smokers know the risks of smoking, want to quit but are unable to due to the addictive nature of tobacco. 4 in 5 smokers start before the age of 20 and are then addicted for life.
  • Vaping is less harmful than smoking and can play a role in helping adult smokers to quit. But our message is clear, if you don't smoke, don't vape - and children should never vape.  Youth vaping has tripled in the last three years, and 1 in 5 children have tried vaping.
  • Disposable vapes are clearly linked to the rise of vaping in children. They are cheap and easy to use, with 69% of current vapers aged 11 to 17 in Great Britain using them. They are also incredibly harmful to the environment. 5 million disposable vapes are either littered or thrown away in general waste every week. This has quadrupled in the last year.

UK Chief Medical Officers Support Smokefree Generation

Company: Department of Health and Social Care Media Centre

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