Tobacco and Vapes Bill

As a Conservative, I do not believe, within reasonable parameters, in the Government ‘banning’ things. Generally, it is not for the Government to decide what ‘risks’ adults in a free society should be able to take, and there was an element of that should the Bill become law in the future.

I accept, however, that cigarettes are a uniquely health harming and dangerous product and so my usual dislike of ‘Nanny State’ bans is in fact NOT the chief cause of my not supporting the Bill and I certainly support plausible measures to reduce smoking prevalence, such as via vaping and heat-not-burn tobacco.

We should not be creating a situation where an adult aged a single year above another adult can legally buy an item and the other cannot. This breaches the basic doctrine of equality before the law, creates two tiers of consumers based on an arbitrary age, and is unenforceable.

The law is already very clear that it is illegal to sell tobacco products to children under the age of 18. Better enforcement of existing laws on both cigarettes for those under age, plus –and this is a crucial point – for those vaping underage too would be a better way of tackling the concerns that people rightly have, but of course that is more difficult to do than just making new laws.

Furthermore, given the horrendous abuse that convenience store workers already receive in their efforts to enforce laws made in Whitehall, I believe that introducing one as absurd and unenforceable as this will simply make the situation they face worse. I speak to convenience stores in my constituency regularly who relay this to me.

The reduction in the smoking rate has been able to occur because of successful state sponsored public health campaigns educating its citizens, especially young people, about the harms of smoking. We know that this works, and that banning things that are bad for our health risks driving the issue underground and leads to illicit products being sold.

As a member of the APPG for Responsible Vaping, I believe that vapes are an incredibly important smoking cessation tool for ex-smokers looking to quit. We know that many of these ex-smokers who have made the switch enjoy the range of flavoured vapes available and their ability to easily purchase them. The provisions in the Bill which will seek to limit this are misguided, and are likely to lead to many ex-smokers returning to their life-threatening habits. It is not that vaping is ‘good’ but rather that smoking is much worse.

People choose different flavours of vapes to help get them off smoking, which is what we want to see. Why should Ministers decide there should only be four? What unknown wisdom do they possess to enable them to decree that strawberry is better than cherry or pineapple or grapefruit? Even the now abandoned New Zealand ban did not include tobacco products that ease people away from smoking, such as heat-not-burn, and yet the UK Bill does so. Why, when we are supposed to be doing everything we can to get people off cigarettes?

These are questions with answers that have so far eluded the front bench. This is why, in good conscience, I decided to vote against the Bill.