Harborough MP Neil O’Brien is spearheading the government’s plan to stop young people starting smoking and vaping.
The MP, who is also Minister for Public Health, is this week launching a consultation on the government’s proposals on vaping and smoking.
The Prime Minister recently announced that a new law will see those born on or after 1 January 2009 – who are currently 14 - not allowed to buy cigarettes.
The government is also consulting ahead of a new law to clamp down on youth vaping, which is growing dramatically.
Neil O’Brien said:
“When I visit local schools and talk to young people in the constituency it is clear that they are concerned about the rapid growth of vaping among young people. Teachers are warning me that 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 sweetie shops. So 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 issues – 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.
While smoking has fallen a lot since the 1970s, still nearly one in eight people aged 18-24 smoke. We know that four out of five people who smoke take it up before they are 20, and then they get hooked for life. About three quarters of smokers want to quit and wish they had never smoked, but it is really addictive and hard to quit once you are hooked. It takes the average smoking quitter on average 30 attempts to quit.
Sadly, 64,000 people a year still die from smoking. It causes around 1 in 4 of all UK cancer deaths, but what people don’t always know is that it massively increases health problems in all areas: smoking increases the risk of stillbirths, strokes, heart attacks and also the risk of dementia.
We aren’t going to criminalise smoking at any age. But the key is to stop young people getting hooked. So 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.”