Documents to download

The Tobacco and Vapes Bill 2023-24 fulfils a series of government proposals to create a ‘smokefree generation’ and reduce the appeal and availability of vapes to young people.

These proposals were set out it the government’s policy paper; Stopping the start: our new plan to create a smokefree generation.

The Bill was introduced to the Commons on 20 March 2024, and is due to have its second reading on 16 April 2024.

This briefing examines the provisions in the Bill and what they would do, although it does not discuss clauses with only a minor or technical effect. Further Library research is available on our tobacco and vaping hub.

Key features of the Bill

Some parts of the Bill apply to all four parts of the UK. Some parts apply at a national level, but the Bill largely provides for a consistent approach to tobacco and vaping control across the UK.

Increasing the age of sale for tobacco

The Bill would make it an offence anywhere in the UK to sell tobacco products to anyone born on or after 1 January 2009. The current age-of-sale across the UK is 18-years.

It would do this directly for England and Wales (clause 1), and it would amend existing age-of-sale legislation in Scotland (clause 37) and Northern Ireland (clause 48) to the same effect.

Reducing the appeal and availability of vapes to children

It is already an offence to sell nicotine vaping products to under-18s, in all four parts of the UK. The Bill would make further provisions to reduce youth vaping:

  • The Bill would make it an offence to sell non-nicotine vaping products to under-18s, in England and Wales (clause 7). It would grant powers to Ministers in Northern Ireland to make regulations to do the same (clause 51). In Scotland, it is already an offence to sell non-nicotine vaping products to under-18s.
  • The Bill would also allow the Secretary of State to make regulations restricting the retail packaging (clause 61), and contents and flavouring of vaping and nicotine products (clause 62). This measure would apply across the UK.
  • The Bill would make it an offence to distribute free vaping products to under-18s in England and Wales (clause 9). It would grant powers to Ministers in Scotland (clause 44) and Northern Ireland (clause 53) to introduce similar restrictions or prohibitions.
  • The Bill would enable the Secretary of State to make new regulations restricting the display of vaping or nicotine products in retail outlets in England and Wales (clause 11). It would enable Ministers in Scotland (clause 45) and Northern Ireland (clause 54) to do the same.

Strengthening enforcement around tobacco and vaping sales

The Bill would enable enforcement authorities in England and Wales to issue on-the-spot fines (fixed penalty notices) for:        

  • Selling tobacco to anyone born on or after 1 January 2009 (clause 1) or selling vaping products to under-18s (clause 7).
  • Purchasing tobacco and vaping products for someone underage (clauses2 and 8).
  • Distributing vaping products to under 18s for free (clause 9).

If a person or business or person persistently breached the relevant restrictions, enforcement authorities would be able to apply to the court to ban the business (through a restricted premises order, clause 12) or person (through a restricted supply order, clause 16) from selling tobacco and vaping products for up to a year.

Economic and financial impacts of the Bill

The Government’s impact assessment for the Bill says that raising the legal age of smoking will have an overall effect on society worth around £18.6 billion, mostly from productivity gains related to reducing levels of smoking. This does not include the cost to HMRC of reduced receipts from tobacco duty, but the assessment says that even if this were included the Bill’s impact on society would still be positive.

Response to the Bill

The Bill has received support from the Smokefree Action Coalition, a group of over 300 health organisations and charities. It has welcomed the Bill’s potential to stop the uptake of tobacco smoking among young people.

Campaign group Action on Smoking and Health has expressed strong support for the Bill and the opportunity it presents to “create a smokefree generation and end the premature death and disability caused by smoking”.

The Independent British Vape Trade Association welcomed the Bill’s strengthened powers of enforcement against retailers who engage in illegal sales.

However, the industry has expressed concern about the powers the Bill provides Ministers to limit vape flavours.

The Department of Health and Social Care published an impact assessment, which, the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) has noted, did not quantify many of the potential health impacts of some of the Bill’s vaping measures including those on flavour, branding and packaging restrictions. The UKVIA suggested this would negatively affect people who have successfully used vaping to stop smoking and remove this opportunity for those yet to stop smoking.

A petition hosted on the UK Parliament website calls for the government “to not ban flavoured e-liquids for e-cigarettes”. At the time of publication, the petition had gained over 50,000 signatures.

The Labour party has said it supports measures to raise the age of sale for tobacco.

New tobacco and vaping measures that are not part of the Bill

Ban on the sale of disposable vapes

Following consultation, the UK, Welsh and Scottish Governments announced in February 2024, their intention to introduce legislation to ban the sale and supply of disposable vapes. Northern Ireland is expected to consider this proposal at a later date.

New duty on vaping products and increase on tobacco duty

In his Spring Budget statement on 6 March 2024, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced that the Government had decided to introduce an excise duty on vaping products from October 2026. The Government also plans to “introduce a one-off increase in tobacco duty at the same time to maintain the financial incentive to choose vaping over smoking”.

Documents to download

Related posts