DUP MPs vote against Tobacco & Vapes Bill

DUP MPs vote against Tobacco & Vapes Bill

DUP MPs have voted against the generational smoking ban, the proposed legislation to make it illegal for those born after 2009 to be sold cigarettes.

Westminster MPs had their first debate on the Tobacco & Vapes Bill on Tuesday 16th April, with it passing by 383 votes to 67 in the Commons.

Several conservative MPs voted against Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Bill, however it is still expected to become law.

Alliance MP Stephen Farry was the only Northern Ireland MP to vote in favour of the ban.

The controversial bill also aims to restrict vape flavours, packaging and change how vapes are displayed in shops.

Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann has previously confirmed that NI will be included in the Bill, subject to approval by the Assembly. He said he fully supported the UK Government’s plans to create a smokefree generation and to tackle youth vaping.

Speaking in the Chamber, DUP MP Sammy Wilson voiced his concerns about how the law would be implemented and concerns about retailers.

The debate came as a Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association (TMA) survey has revealed that 80% of those surveyed had bought illegal tobacco in the previous year.

The survey, carried out between October and December 2023, questioned 12,000 smokers on their attitudes, awareness and understanding of illegal tobacco. The results also showed that nearly three quarters of respondents have seen an illegal 20-pack of cigarettes priced between £3 and £6 (compared to the mean average RRP of £15.26 for a legal packet).

Despite government attempts to curb the problem, the illegal tobacco market is growing. While the number of adult smokers in the UK has decreased by 30% (to 12% of the UK population) since the TMA commissioned its first ‘Anti-Illicit Trade Survey’ in 2014, the number of respondents who claim to purchase non-UK duty paid tobacco has reached a new high point of 80%, with one in five smokers only buying ‘branded’ tobacco, even though all legal tobacco has been sold in plain packaging in the UK since 2016 – eight years ago.

Almost two thirds of survey respondents claimed repeated hikes in tobacco taxes couple with the cost-of-living pressures meant they have changed their tobacco spending habits, up from 39% in 2022.

Retailers have raised concerns about the Bill, citing the increase in sales of illicit tobacco and vapes.

Rupert Lewis, Director of the TMA said that the illegal tobacco market in the UK has now reached an inflection point.

“In previous years, the TMA Anti-Illicit Trade Survey has painted a picture of a stubbornly resilient illegal tobacco trade, which in spite of overall smoking rates downtrending year-on-year, has remained resistant to decline,” said Mr Lewis.

“I believe that there will be profound and far-reaching repercussions for consumers, retailers, law enforcement agencies and communities across the UK if a phased generational ban becomes law. In time, it will push the entire UK tobacco market underground, and I urge the government to reflect hard on the consequences of this policy decision and the lasting impact that it will have on the UK.”