Following consultation at the end of last year, the government has now introduced the Tobacco and Vapes Bill to parliament.  The government says that smoking and vaping are the biggest cause of preventable illness in the UK and cost the NHS and the economy an estimated £17 billion a year

The Bill's core aims are to:

  • make it an offence to sell tobacco products to anyone born on or after 1 January 2009; 
  • introduce measures to reduce the appeal and availability of vapes to children; and
  • strengthen enforcement activity.

From 1 January 2027 the Bill will: 

  • make it an offence to sell tobacco products, herbal smoking products and cigarette 
    papers to anyone born on or after 1 January 2009. 
  • make it an offence for a person aged 18 or over to buy, or attempt to buy, any such products for someone who was born on or after 1 January 2009. 
  • amend age of sale notice requirements. Tobacco retailers will need to align their age of sale notices with the new age of sale restrictions.

The Bill allows for regulations to restrict the flavours and flavour descriptions of vapes, the packaging and product presentation of vapes and the point of sale displays of vapes across the UK.  In addition, it will enable the regulation of non-nicotine vapes and other nicotine products under a similar regulatory framework as nicotine vapes across the UK.

It also extends existing vaping restrictions around the age of sale and proxy purchasing to non-nicotine vapes in England and Wales and will provide regulation making powers to extend these restrictions to other nicotine products across the UK. The Bill will include regulation making powers for Northern Ireland to introduce similar restrictions. 

The Bill will also introduce a ban on the free distribution of vapes to under 18-year-olds in England and Wales and a regulation making power for Northern Ireland to introduce the ban. Powers already exist in Scotland to enable a ban on the free distribution of nicotine vapour products (nicotine and non-nicotine). 

Finally, the Bill will introduce powers for non-nicotine vapes and nicotine products (that is, nicotine pouches) to be notified under a similar notification system as nicotine vapes. 

As well as the current criminal fines, restricted premises orders and restricted sale orders for persistent offenders, the Bill provides for new sanctions.  In particular, there will be fixed penalty notices in England and Wales of £100 for breaches of the age of sale legislation for tobacco products and vapes as well as breaches of proxy purchase restrictions and the free distribution of vapes. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, the existing fixed penalty notice regimes for the age of sale and proxy purchasing of tobacco and vapes will continue. 

The government is separately providing funding to enforcement agencies to support them in dealing with illicit and underage sales of tobacco and vape products. Time will tell whether it is enough money.

Additionally, the government has committed to ban the sale and supply of disposable vapes from April 2025 under the draft Environmental Protection (Single-use Vapes) (England) Regulations 2024.  Similar legislation will apply in other parts of the UK.

The Bill is due to receive its second reading in the House of Commons soon and will lead to a significant restriction on the marketing and sale of tobacco and vapes products once fully in force. There is cross-party support for the Bill, so a potential change of government later this year is unlikely to derail its aims.

It is worth noting that the ASA recently issued an Enforcement Notice to e-cigarette manufacturers and retailers to serve notice that they must immediately stop any problem advertising of vaping products online, or in social media, or face sanctions.  So even without legislation, vape manufacturers and retailers need to ensure that they are complying with advertising regulation.