Proposed UK policies on tobacco and vaping demonstrate clear commitment to public health 

Proposed UK policies on tobacco and vaping demonstrate clear commitment to public health  - article image

The European Respiratory Society (ERS) has praised the United Kingdom’s (UK) commitment to phasing out tobacco use and strongly supports the country’s proposed policies to eliminate vaping amongst the youth population. 

The UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently announced the intention to create a smokefree generation by raising the legal smoking age every year to prevent those born on or after 1 January 2009 from legally purchasing cigarettes – a similar model to that applied in New Zealand.    

ERS Tobacco Control Committee Chair Dr Filippos Filippidis noted that firm actions taken by governments should be commended, as they demonstrate the prioritisation of public health and send a clear message on the harms of smoking and importance of lung health. 

“We support the UK’s effort to reduce tobacco consumption among future generations – there is no doubt that this should be a public health priority when you consider that smoking causes tens of thousands of deaths, including around one in four cancer deaths in the UK. By taking this action, the UK is also helping to send a global message that tobacco endgame policies should be a public health priority.” 

Additional to tobacco reduction, the UK has proposed policies to help eliminate vaping among the country’s youth, by introducing restrictions on disposable vapes, and regulating flavours and packaging to reduce their appeal to children.  

Ed Powell, a 16-year-old patient representative working closely with the ERS through the European Lung Foundation described the UK’s proposed changes as ‘protection’. 

“Vaping is a growing issue, especially the appeal to young people and the unknown long-term impacts of vaping. I think that the government’s stance on this is very positive as they have taken a wider view of what can also cause issues for the lungs.  I think they are taking a very positive future-proofed approach to protect the population from the dangers of vaping in the future, especially with the grasp it has on the young.” 

Dr Filippos Filippidis added: “The UK’s proposed policies on vaping could make vaping less appealing and less accessible to children and young people in general, which is a very important development, especially within the context of the proposed policies on tobacco.” 

“We must acknowledge that it’s unlikely that policy reforms to eliminate tobacco will be without problems or be 100% effective. Such policies should be accompanied by a range of other measures that have been proven to be effective, such as smoke-free environments, support for smoking cessations and advertising regulations. There will also be things for governments to consider alongside these changes such as the potential emergence of illegal trade, but taking no action is far more harmful than taking strong steps in the right direction.”