Harborough MP spearheads new law to create a 'smoke free generation'
A new law to create a ‘smoke free generation’ is being spearheaded by Harborough’s MP.
Neil O’Brien, who is also minister for public health, is launching a consultation on government’s proposals to stamp out vaping and smoking.
It follows a recent announcement by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of a new law which would raise the age people can buy cigarettes by one year every year, until it applies to the whole population.
The new laws would mean a 14-year-old today could never legally be sold a cigarette.
If they are given the green light it would mean the United Kingdom could have some of the toughest rules around smoking in the world.
Mr O’Brien said: “We aren’t going to criminalise smoking at any age, the key is to stop young people getting hooked. We are going to change the law so that children born on or after 1 January 2009 will never be able to be legally sold cigarettes. This will mean effectively raising the age of sale by one year each year for this generation, to prevent them and future generations from ever taking up smoking in the first place. We have two children and no parent wants their child to start smoking.
“To help people who already smoke we are doubling funding of local stop smoking services, and to stop cigarettes being sold to children we are strengthening enforcement activity with new funding and new powers to fine rogue retailers.”
Government is also looking at bringing in restrictions of availability of vapes to children, looking at flavours, packaging, displays and disposable vapes.
An enforcement squad led by Trading Standards was set up earlier this year to tackle illicit vapes and underage sales.
Mr O’Brien said: “When I visit local schools and talk to young people in the constituency it is clear they are concerned about the rapid growth of vaping among young people. Teachers are warning me growing numbers of children are vaping, and consuming so much nicotine that they are distracted at school or not sleeping well.
“A few months ago I announced a new enforcement squad to tackle those who are selling vapes to children, and that squad is now starting to get up and running. But it is clear that we also need to take action to stop these firms targeting kids.
“So many vapes are being sold with cartoon packaging, bright colours and flavours like bubblegum that it is obvious that they are targeting children. At the moment there are no controls on how they are sold either, so any sort of shop can stick a pack of vapes on their checkout, even sweet shops. We are consulting on controlling flavours, packaging and how they are sold.
“One factor that has really driven children vaping is the growth in really cheap, disposable vapes made in China. They are also an environmental issue – the battery and electronics are thrown away after a single use and they are causing an increasing number of bin fires. So we will look to control the growth of disposable vapes in particular.”
Statistics show nearly one in eight people aged 18 to 24 smoke, with four in five smokers taking it up before they are 20.