MPs to vote on smoking bill
A man lights a cigarette. The camera is directly facing him, and his eyes are just out of the frame.

MPs will vote today (16 April) on legislation to protect young people turning 15 this year or younger from the dangers of smoking.

The Tobacco and Vapes Bill would make it an offence to sell tobacco products to anyone born after 1 January 2009 - children aged 15 or younger today.

Smoking itself would not be criminalised and anyone who can legally buy tobacco today will never be prevented from doing so in the future by the legislation.

Health and social care secretary, Victoria Atkins, said: "Too many people know someone whose life has been tragically cut short or irreversibly changed because of smoking, which despite significant progress remains the UK’s biggest preventable killer."

She added: "This bill will save thousands of lives, ease the strain on our NHS and improve the UK’s productivity."

The legislation will cover all tobacco products, recognising that tobacco kills two-thirds of long-term users. In England alone, almost every minute someone with a smoking-related condition is admitted to hospital.

Alongside action to prevent creating future smokers, the government has already announced significant additional funding for stop smoking services over the next five years. The government is also rolling out an innovative financial incentives scheme to help all pregnant smokers to quit.

The Tobacco and Vapes Bill would also give the government new powers to tackle youth vaping by restricting flavours and regulating the way that vapes are sold and packaged to make them less appealing to children.

Smoking is the UK’s single biggest preventable killer and costs the NHS and economy an estimated £17 billion a year - far more than the £10 billion annual revenue from tobacco taxation.

It is also highly addictive - 4 in 5 smokers start before the age of 20 and remain addicted for the rest of their lives despite most smokers having tried to quit.

Dr Charmaine Griffiths, chief executive at the British Heart Foundation, said that raising the age of sale for tobacco each year will be "a game changer" and will mean future generations will be protected from serious disease and death caused by smoking.

Griffiths added: "Decisive action is needed to end this ongoing public health tragedy - we urge every MP to vote for this landmark legislation at the bill’s second reading."