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Press Release

ASH response to government announcement on smoking and vaping

29 Jan 2024

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health, said,
“Today’s announcements are a vital stepping stone on the path to ending the smoking epidemic once and for all. The Government’s strategy is the right one: stop smoking initiation, support smokers to quit by using the most effective methods, while protecting children by curbing youth vaping. Smoking has caused more deaths than obesity, alcohol, road traffic accidents, illegal drugs and HIV combined and each year kills more people than COVID did at the height of the pandemic. Smoking is the silent killer that hides in plain sight. Ending this scourge on society is long overdue.”

Bob Blackman CBE MP chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health said,

“The All Party Group on Smoking and Health, which I chair, has repeatedly called on government to take much tougher action on smoking and vaping and finally the government has listened. The devil will be in the detail, so we will need to scrutinise the legislation that will bring this to fruition when it is laid before parliament in the days to come.”

The specific measures highlighted in today’s announcement are:

  • Ban on disposable vapes which have driven alarming rise in youth vaping
  • New powers to restrict vape flavours, introduce plain packaging and change how vapes are displayed in shops so that they don’t appeal to children.
  • New law will make it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born on or after 1 January 2009, delivering on the Prime Minister’s pledge to create a smokefree generation

Ban on disposable vapes

ASH was first to raise the alarm about disposable vapes fuelling a growth in underage vaping, after our survey data in 2022 showed an uptick in underage vaping with disposables the majority choice. [1] This trend has continued and in 2023 and 69% of underage vapers said they use disposable vapes. [2]

Disposable vapes are widely available for pocket money prices, attractive and easy to use, and environmentally damaging and tough action is needed. However, there are significant challenges to making a ban work, and there need to be exemptions for use by healthcare professionals with vulnerable smokers.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health, said,

“Banning disposables when they are so widely used will require strict enforcement to be effective, as illegal vapes are already flooding the market even before a ban. At the turn of the last century illegal tobacco was out of control, just as illegal vapes are now but the number of illegal cigarettes on sale in the UK fell by 80% between 2000 and 2021 after a comprehensive cross government strategy was implemented. It’s excellent news that the government has updated its strategy for tackling illicit tobacco, but we are yet to see the same strategic approach applied to vapes. Throwing money at the problem is not enough, stopping illegal vapes at the Border, inland and at point of sale requires a thought through intelligence-led strategy.”

Dr Ruth Sharrock, Clinical Lead for Tobacco Dependency, North East and North Cumbria NHS Integrated Care Board, said,

“Removing disposable vapes from our toolkit would make it harder to support our most vulnerable smokers. Older smokers, people with learning disabilities and others can find it hard to use refillable products straight away. The immediacy of a disposable vape makes such a difference. It is as if we are taking a cigarette out of their hand and replacing it with a vastly safer product.”

New powers to restrict vape flavours, introduce plain packaging and change how vapes are displayed in shops so that they don’t appeal to children.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said,
“The Government is taking vital powers to control the design and promotion of e-cigarettes to prevent them being promoted to children. The comic characters, bright colours and sweet names so appealing to children are unacceptable for products that should only be promoted to adults as an aid to quitting smoking.”

See example of caramel tobacco flavoured e-liquids: one fully branded, the other with an alpha-numerical descriptor. Available online today from:

New law will make it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born on or after 1 January 2009

The new law is supported by all the leading health organisations including the medical royal colleges, health charities and professional associations. A large online survey by YouGov for ASH found that two thirds (66%) of adults in Great Britain already support the legislation with only 14% opposed. [3]

Dr Charmaine Griffiths, Chief Executive at the British Heart Foundation said:

“When we have known for many decades that smoking kills, it is utterly unacceptable that smoking continues to take so many lives, causing at least 15,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease every year across the UK. On top of this, smoking is a significant driver of health inequalities, disproportionately affecting the health of the poorest in society.

“Tough measures are needed to put a stop to this ongoing heartbreak, and we welcome the UK Government’s bold proposal to create a smoke-free generation by raising the age of sale for tobacco every year.

“There is clear public support for this measure and we now urge every MP to support this once-in-a-generation Bill when it is brought to the UK Parliament, and hope to see this policy adopted by administrations across the UK.”

John Herriman, Chief Executive at the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), said:

“CTSI welcome the publication of the response to the Smokefree Generation consultation and the commitment to raise the age of sale for tobacco. This recognises the uniquely harmful nature of the product and we look forward to helping to support businesses in adapting to the change.

"As always Trading Standards Officers will step in and take action against those who persistently flout the law designed to protect our communities from the harms of tobacco and welcome the commitment to add fixed penalty notices to our enforcement toolkits”.


Notes to the Editor

Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. ASH receives funding for its programme of work from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive, Hazel Cheeseman Deputy Chief Executive, and Professor Nick Hopkinson, Professor of respiratory medicine at Imperial College London and Chair of ASH are available for media interviews: contact



[2] The 2023 ASH factsheet on Use of e-cigarettes (vapes) among young people in Great Britain is available at

[3] The survey was carried out online by YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 4,107 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 15th - 17th November 2023. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).