Generational Tobacco Ban

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It refers to banning cigarette or tobacco sales to anyone born after a certain date (at any point in their lifetime regardless of how old they are) to make smoking “a thing of the past”. Technically speaking, it could also be defined as steadily raising legal smoking age by one year every year until no one is eligible to buy cigarettes or tobacco products. The idea, originated from New Zealand, has been a matter of discussion across the world.

The UK

March 2024: The new Tobacco and Vapes Bill1,2 will make it an offence to sell tobacco products to those born on/after 1 January 2009 and to purchase tobacco products on behalf of those born on/after the 1 January 2009 (“proxy purchasing”). The Bill also require tobacco retailers to update the current age of sale notices (“warning notices”) to “it is illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born on or after 1 January 2009”. Subject to approval from Parliament, the “smoke-free generation policy” will come into force on 1 January 2027, when those born on 1 January 2009 turn 18. A post-implementation review will be conducted for this policy within 5 years of the policy coming into force. The review will establish whether and to what extent, the policy has achieved its original objectives and if these remain appropriate.  

Products in scope include cigarettes, hand rolled tobacco, cigars, cigarillos, pipe tobacco, water-pipe tobacco products, chewing tobacco, heated tobacco, nasal tobacco, herbal smoking products and cigarette papers. Vapes and nicotine pouches are not in scope.

The Government underlines that raising the age of sale to 21 will not be sufficient to continue the downward trajectory of smoking rates towards 0%. Thereby, the age of sale will be raised progressively.

In addition, the Bill will also introduce new powers to restrict the youth-appealing vape flavours & packaging and to change how vapes are displayed in shops (i.e. moving vapes out of sight of youth and away from the youth-appealing products). Under the Bill, Enforcement Officers’ powers will also be strengthened with “on the spot fines” of £100 to uphold the new laws and clamp down on underage sales of tobacco and vaping products. This builds on a maximum £2,500 fine that local authorities can already impose. It will also no longer be legal to give free samples of vapes to under 18s. Additionally, the Government has committed to ban the sale and supply of disposable vapes from April 2025 under a separate environmental legislation.

The Bill, if passed unchanged, will be the only nationwide Generational Tobacco Ban in the world. Despite the fierce opposition within the ruling Conservative Party, the legislation is expected to pass with the support of the Labour Party.

December 2023: Following New Zealand’s policy u-turn, it is being speculated that the UK Government will accept the compromise of raising the smoking age from 18 to 21 (without industry resistance) in return for dropping the generational tobacco ban3. Public consultation on the government’s proposals (to create the first “smoke-free generation”) will close on December 6. Stakeholders have time until then to submit their case for or against the ban.

Meanwhile, the major tobacco companies are speeding up their lobbying activities. Earlier this month, PMI held round table events with MPs as part of its efforts to ensure that heated tobacco products are exempt from any future smoking ban. Next week, BAT will sponsor a private event on the UK Government’s plans to phase out smoking. Imperial Brands’ lobbyists have also been heavily engaging with MPs to discuss the proposed ban. It is claimed that a large number of libertarian (ruling Conservative Party) MPs do not like the idea of government limiting people’s free choice.

October 2023: The British PM proposed banning younger generations from buying cigarettes4 – by raising the legal smoking age by one year every year. “A 14-year-old today will never legally be sold a cigarette”, the British PM told the Conservative Party conference of his proposed new rule. This means that anyone born in 2009 or later will never be able to legally purchase a cigarette.

The proposal – if passed into law – would make Britain the first country in Europe to introduce a “generational tobacco ban”. Denmark is considering a similar move. The British PM also plans to bring forward measures to restrict the underage access to e-cigarettes.

September 2023: The British PM is reportedly looking into emulating the New Zealand’s generational ban on tobacco5,6 and is considering to steadily increase the legal age for consuming tobacco. If implemented by 2026, it would mean anyone aged 15 and under now would never be able to buy a cigarette.

The Health Minister challenged the “generational tobacco ban” idea in April 2023 by stating that the UK’s policy for achieving the “2030 smoke-free nation” target (i.e. less than 5% of the population smoking) would be based on “helping people to quit” rather than applying bans. However, as the UK is set to miss the 2030 target by 7-10 years, the British PM is exploring different policy advice and, presumably, a more stringent approach.

January 2023: The Labour Party would ban cigarette sales7 as more radical options are needed to meet the UK’s 2030 smoke-free target (ban in the sense of raising the age of sale from 18 by one year every year until no one can buy a tobacco product)

Meanwhile, a survey revealed that 52% of British want an immediate end to cigarette sales and over 70% say UK should follow New Zealand’s example to phase cigarettes out8.

New Zealand

November 2023:

According to the released coalition agreement9, New Zealand’s new center-right government (which comprises the National, ACT and New Zealand First parties) will repeal the Smokefree legislation that bans tobacco sales to people born on/after January 1, 2009 and limits the number of retail outlets allowed to sell cigarettes.

Background:

New Zealand has a confirmed timeline for the implementation of “generational tobacco ban” and other restrictions (- to be revoked by the new government).

– July 2024: the number of tobacco shops to be cut from 8’000 to 500

– April 2025: Only very-low nicotine tobacco products to be allowed

– January 2027: anyone born on/after January 1, 2009 will not be able to buy cigarettes or tobacco products.

Meanwhile, New Zealand became the first country to have more vapers than smokers. Data released in Nov 2022 showed that the number of adults smoking daily had fallen to 8% (down from 9.4% last year) while 8.3% of the adults are now vaping daily (up from 6.2% last year)10.

Malaysia

November 2023: Cabinet decided to decouple Generational End Game (GEG) from the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill11 due to the Attorney-General’s advice that proposed cohort or age-based prohibition (banning tobacco and vape products for anyone born on/after January 1, 2007) would be unconstitutional. GEG is viewed by the Attorney-General as a contravention of Article 8 of the Federal Constitution (that guarantees equality before the law) as it defines two sets of laws for two different groups of citizens based on age. A two-thirds majority would be required in the House to amend the Federal Constitution and render GEG constitutional.

Even if decoupling the GEG from the Bill represents a major policy shift, “Smoking Control Bill” will be tabled the current parliamentary session ending November 30.

October 2023: The Health Ministry will table a revised version of the tobacco & vape control bill12 – known as the Generational End Game (GEG) bill – for its second reading in the Parliament on October 10. The Bill was presented for its first reading on June 12, 2023 and was referred to the special parliamentary committee for further research.

The first version of the Bill proposed a maximum RM500 (US$105) fine or community service for anyone born in 2007 or after when caught smoking/vaping or buying cigarettes/vapes. The revised version increases the fines for industry players and lowers the fines for consumers.

Jul 2022: Malaysian cabinet approves the bill to ban the sale of cigarettes, tobacco and vape products to anyone born after 2005. Bill will go before the Parliament for debate in the upcoming sessions.

Australia

October 2023: Australia may follow the UK in banning smoking for future generations13. Australian Health Minister stated that they are monitoring the UK and New Zealand schemes closely as they move forward with their own tobacco law reforms. “Australia – once touted as a world leader in anti-smoking reforms – had become a laggard under the former government”, he added.

May 2022: Australia considers a ban on cigarette sales (to certain age groups by 2030) as a new survey shows that the majority of public wants cigarettes to be removed from shelves14.

Hong Kong

November 2022: Government is mulling a ban on those born after 2009 from buying tobacco products in their lifetime in a bid to eventually phase out smoking15.

Denmark

April 2022: The Danish government considers permanently banning the sale of cigarettes for people born after 2010, but won’t be able to implement the “generational tobacco ban”. The Danish Health Minister will seek an amendment to the EU TPD.

Ireland

January 2022: A complete ban on the sale of tobacco and a sharp reduction in the number of point of sales are two of the strategies being explored to help eradicate cigarette smoking in Ireland

Singapore

January 2022: Singapore considers to ban tobacco sales to those born after 2010

References:

  1. Smokefree generation one step closer as bill introduced ↩︎
  2. Tobacco and Vapes Bill: smokefree generation factsheet – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) ↩︎
  3. https://inews.co.uk/news/big-tobacco-campaign-block-sunak-smoking-ban-2783205 ↩︎
  4. https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/uk-pm-sunak-wants-ban-cigarettes-younger-generations-2023-10-04/ ↩︎
  5. https://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/rishi-sunak-cigarette-ban-next-generation-guardian-age-new-zealand-b1108950.html ↩︎
  6. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/sep/22/rishi-sunak-considers-banning-cigarettes-for-next-generation ↩︎
  7. https://telegraph.co.uk/politics/2023/01/08/labour-government-could-ban-sale-cigarettes-help-eradicate-smoking ↩︎
  8. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11631197/Over-half-Brits-want-immediate-end-cigarette-sales.html ↩︎
  9. New Zealand’s Next Government to Scrap Law Curbing Tobacco Sales – Bloomberg ↩︎
  10. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/nov/17/new-zealand-smoking-rates-fall-to-lowest-on-record-but-vaping-on-the-rise ↩︎
  11. https://codeblue.galencentre.org/2023/11/06/cabinet-moots-decoupling-unconstitutional-geg-from-tobacco-bill-tabling-likely-next-year/ ↩︎
  12. https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2023/10/05/health-ministry-to-table-second-reading-of-anti-smoking-bill-on-oct-10/94559 ↩︎
  13. Australia watching England smoking ban ‘with interest’, as government reforms tobacco laws – ABC News ↩︎
  14. https://dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10784613/Australia-hints-ban-cigarette-sales-as.html ↩︎
  15. https://thestandard.com.hk/breaking-news/section/4/196693/Hong-Kong-could-ban-cigarettes-for-future-generations ↩︎

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