From Action on Smoking and Health <[email protected]>
Subject ASH Daily News for 15 April 2024
Date April 15, 2024 10:16 AM
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** 15 April 2024

** UK

** Tobacco firms lobbying MPs to derail smoking phase-out, charity warns (#1)

** Smoking ban will be difficult to enforce, Lord Clarke warns Sunak (#2)

** Concern over vape shops which also sell toys (#3)

** UK

** Tobacco firms lobbying MPs to derail smoking phase-out, charity warns

Tobacco firms are lobbying MPs and peers in an effort to derail Rishi Sunak’s flagship policy to phase out smoking, the head of Britain’s biggest cancer charity has said.

The prime minister’s landmark legislation – which would bar anyone born after 2009 from buying cigarettes and make England the first country in the world to ban smoking – is due to be debated in parliament for the first time on Tuesday.

Michelle Mitchell, the chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said the tobacco industry was working behind the scenes using “a variety of tactics” to try to weaken, delay or even kill off the plans.

Mitchell told the Guardian that the “world-leading” legislation was “the most important public health policy shift I can remember” and could “see the blight of tobacco removed” from society for ever.

Smoking is the single biggest cause of cancer in the UK and worldwide and causes at least 15 different types of the disease, she said. But the proposals to bring in a smoking ban for the next generation were being privately undermined by tobacco companies.

“We know the tobacco industry is working quite hard to dilute the bill,” Mitchell said. “MPs and peers have briefed us that members of the tobacco industry are seeking to make arguments [against] and amendments to the bill as it goes through the passage of parliament.”

The tobacco industry is lobbying MPs and peers to oppose the legislation and seeking support for instead raising the smoking age from 18 to 21 in an attempt to avoid an outright ban on buying cigarettes for anyone who turns 15 this year, Mitchell said.

She said representatives of tobacco companies were also trying to persuade politicians to back exemptions, “for example excluding cigars”, from the legislation. Separate efforts were being made to delay the passage of the bill until after the general election.

Another tactic was to promote the idea of a clause in the bill to guarantee a review of the legislation in future. The danger is that in theory this could lead to the smoking ban being overturned, Mitchell said.

“The tobacco industry in the UK and around the world uses the same tactics to resist, stop, postpone any pieces of legislation which have a net negative impact on their business,” she said. “It’s really vital that MPs and peers don’t get distracted by the noise, not least from the tobacco industry – and really focus on the huge public health benefit that would come from this.”

Deborah Arnott, the chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), said she was not surprised UK MPs and peers were being lobbied over the legislation, particularly given the global impact it could have on the tobacco industry.

“The tobacco transnationals will fight tooth and nail to block, water down or at the very least delay the UK’s historic legislation to raise the age of sale, because it is an existential threat to their business model,” she said.

“They may claim they want a smoke-free future, but most of their sales and even more of their profits still come from selling cigarettes, which are sold for vast amounts more than the pennies they cost to make.

“The lesson of all previous tobacco laws is that once they come into force in one country they spread rapidly round the world. That’s what happened with ad bans, smoke-free laws and plain packs, and that’s why big tobacco can’t afford to let this legislation pass unchallenged.”

Last week Boris Johnson attacked Sunak’s smoking ban plan as “absolutely nuts”. Speaking at a gathering of conservatives in Ottawa, Canada, the former prime minister said: “When the party of Winston Churchill wants to ban cigars, donnez-moi un break as they say in Quebec, it’s just mad.”

According to documents seen by the Guardian, among those with hospitality suites at the Canada Strong and Free networking conference were some of the world’s largest tobacco companies.

Source: The Guardian, 15 April 2024

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** Smoking ban will be difficult to enforce, Lord Clarke warns Sunak

Former health secretary Lord Clarke has warned Rishi Sunak that his flagship smoking ban could be difficult to enforce.

Speaking on the eve of this week’s crunch vote on the legislation in the Commons, the former chancellor and home secretary said he was not going to vote against the legislation and the motives to end smoking were “admirable”.

But he forecast there could be difficulties as the ban on buying cigarettes moved up the generations. “You will get to a stage where if you are 42 years of age, you will be able to buy them but someone aged 41 will not be allowed to,” Lord Clarke told The Telegraph.

“Does that mean you will have to produce your birth certificate? It may prove very difficult to enforce. Future generations will have to see whether it works or not.”

Under the proposed ban, someone aged 15 now who was born on or after Jan 1 2009 will never legally be allowed to buy tobacco.

It would effectively raise the legal age for buying cigarettes in England by one year every year until it applies to the whole population. Disposable vapes would also be banned outright, with reusable ones limited to four flavours.

Tory MPs are being given a free vote and at least three cabinet ministers are considering voting against it, amid concerns that it is an “unconservative” measure that denies free choice to consumers.

Although dozens of Tory MPs are understood to have concerns about the smoking ban, rebels are split about whether to oppose the Bill outright or attempt to amend it. There will not be the opportunity for changes until it moves to its report stage following Tuesday’s vote.

The Government’s working majority is now 51, meaning only 26 Tories would have to vote against the plans to leave Mr Sunak reliant on Labour votes. To force a defeat, at least 274 Tories would need to oppose the policy, subject to how other parties voted.

Source: The Telegraph, 14 April 2024

Editorial Note: Between 1998 and 2007 Ken Clarke was non-executive Deputy Chair of British American Tobacco.

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** Concern over vape shops which also sell toys

A shop in Grimsby which sells sweets and toys alongside vapes is causing concern among some parents.

Grimsby Toys and Vape in Pasture Street was established in March 2023.

Some parents said shops should not be allowed to sell vapes, toys and sweets in the same premises, claiming it could encourage children to start vaping.

Figures from the Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) charity, external suggest 7.6% of 11 to 17-year-olds now vape regularly or occasionally, up from 4.1% in 2020.

In January, the government announced plans to prevent vapes being marketed at children and to target under-age sales.

Source: BBC News, 12 April 2024

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