New Clause 14 - Application of the Part I of the Health Act 2006 to vaping

Tobacco and Vapes Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 14 May 2024.

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“(1) The Health Act 2006 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 1 (Introduction) insert—

(1) In this Part, and in any regulations made under this Part, where a provision applies to smoking, it should also be taken to apply to vaping.

(2) For the purposes of this section, “vaping” means the use of a vape or vaping product to vaporise a vaping substance.

(3) For the purposes of this section, “vape”, “vaping product”, “vaping substance” and “vaporises” have the meanings given in section 69 of the Tobacco and Vapes Act 2024.’”—

This new clause would amend the Health Act 2006, which banned smoking in public places and certain vehicles, to include vaping.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Trudy Harrison Trudy Harrison Conservative, Copeland

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

I am channelling my hon. Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham and her passionate work as a consultant paediatrician or, as she would say, the children’s doctor in the House. I regard her experience highly. As technology evolves, so do our habits. This new clause seeks parity for smoking and vaping, so that the same rules that apply to smoking in public places will also apply to vaping, thereby protecting non-vapers from exposure to harmful substances.

As the Minister put it, we know that vapes are not harmless, but we think that they are less harmful than smoking cigarettes. I acknowledge that there is a lack of evidence—we heard this in the evidence session last week—but I think there is also a lack of research into the evidence on the impacts of vaping. Could the Minister reassure us that evidence will be sought on the impacts of vaping, not just on those who are vaping but those who are in the vicinity of vaping products? We should be trying to prevent the normalisation of vaping products, particularly among children and other impressionable audiences. We have heard much about the principle of polluter pays, which I absolutely agree with, but it is equally important to prevent the pollution and avoid promoting polluting substances to the potential polluter. That was an awful lot of Ps.

Photo of Mary Glindon Mary Glindon Opposition Whip (Commons)

I thank the hon. Lady for giving way. She makes a strong argument but, on the other hand, Cancer Research says that there is no comparison between passive vaping and passive smoking. I know many former heavy smokers who have given up smoking and now vape, and that is one of the reasons why I am such an ardent supporter of vaping as opposed to smoking. It is awful for those people to have to go outside and stand with smokers. If people are not allowed to vape indoors, there should be a separate area for vapers. Does she not agree that such a situation sends out the message that vaping is dangerous when we need heavy smokers to give up smoking, and vaping is the best way for many of them to do that?

Photo of Trudy Harrison Trudy Harrison Conservative, Copeland

I welcome that intervention, but we cannot ignore the trebling of the number of 11 to 17-year-olds who are starting to vape. However much the Minister says that people who are not smoking should not vape, and that no children should be vaping, that is not the reality in the communities that we serve. It is certainly not the reality in my Copeland community. I think the hon. Lady is saying that vaping helps us to fix the problem, but I am equally keen to prevent the problem. The rate at which young people are taking up vaping needs serious consideration, but we also need serious evidence-gathering to understand not only the harms that could be caused by those who are vaping in the vicinity of others, but nicotine addiction.

Photo of Lisa Cameron Lisa Cameron Conservative, East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow

My hon. Friend is making a very passionate speech on behalf of herself and my hon. Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham, who I am sure will be very pleased with the contribution. However, I have to say that I agree with the hon. Member for North Tyneside because the evidence that we heard strongly suggested that smoking and vaping are not commensurate. My hon. Friend the Member for Copeland is entirely right that we need further evidence, but perhaps we should be looking at evidence-based policy making so that we make the policy when we have the evidence. The best way forward would be to seek such evidence.

Photo of Trudy Harrison Trudy Harrison Conservative, Copeland

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. That is really what I am calling for, although it does not detract from the need to prevent the normalisation of vaping. However, I repeat the request for more in-depth research into the impacts of vaping and nicotine addiction on children.

Photo of Preet Kaur Gill Preet Kaur Gill Shadow Minister (Primary Care and Public Health)

Most public places are already smoke free on a voluntary basis. We do not believe it is necessary or proportionate to make such a legal requirement, which would risk increasing the widespread misperception that vaping is as harmful as smoking. In the United Kingdom, vaping is already prohibited on a voluntary basis in most, if not all, places visited by children; public transport—trains, airports, planes, buses, coaches and ferries—most, if not all, sports stadiums; music venues; many hospitals or hospital grounds; restaurants and cafes, at least definitely those used widely by children; and a lot of pubs and bars. As was discussed in last week’s evidence sessions, the health harms underpinning the smoking ban are not proven for vaping, and such an approach would be hard to justify on health grounds. This would be a complicated piece of legislation to introduce, and now is not the time at which, and the Bill is not the place in which, to do so.

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland for moving the new clause tabled by our hon. Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham. I think all hon. Members are keen to see much more evidence on this issue, and I absolutely share that concern. I have urgently commissioned research into the impact of vaping on both the vaper and those second-hand breathers-in. As we all heard during the public evidence sessions, and as my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow set out, we do not have the evidence. We therefore need to provide evidence-based regulation as a matter of urgency, and I absolutely assure hon. Members that that will be forthcoming.

It is certainly the case that the ban on smoking in indoor spaces has been a great public health success story since its introduction in England in 2007 and across the UK from 2006. There is no doubt that the ban has protected many adults and so many children from the harms of passive smoking; it will have saved lives.

We know that vaping is less harmful than smoking, and indeed is a very effective quit aid for adult smokers. Although I have grave concerns about whether we err too far on the side of saying “Vaping is much better than smoking,” and are therefore inadvertently saying to young people that it is fine to vape, which of course it is not, that is why we also always say, “If you don’t smoke, don’t vape, and children should never vape.”

Although smoking in a public place may be seen as a nuisance by some, and there is some evidence that it can trigger asthma attacks, in the same way that pollution or car exhaust fumes can, there is very limited evidence of the potential harms of vaping in enclosed spaces, and simply none to suggest that it is at all similar to tobacco smoking. Vapes emit vapour, not harmful tobacco smoke. Vaping does not burn tobacco or produce tar and carbon monoxide—two of the most harmful elements in tobacco smoke. Evidence of the harm from exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke is well established, and because of its carcinogenic content, there is no safe level of exposure. It is totally incomparable to vaping, where there is very little evidence to suggest that second-hand vapour is anything more than an irritant. I repeat: that is not to say that vaping is good for anyone or a good thing to try. It absolutely is not. We know it is extremely harmful to children, whose lungs and brains are still developing.

In addition, many businesses, venues and spaces have already introduced their own bans on the use of vapes where smoking is prohibited, such as on public transport, on work premises and in many restaurants and bars. In 2016, Public Health England produced guidance regarding the use of vapes in public places and workplaces, which has helped businesses to make informed decisions on their vape-free policies, but given the lack of evidence of any harm from second-hand vapour and the way that the majority of businesses, restaurants and bars self-regulate and have vape-free policies in place, as well as the fact that vaping in enclosed spaces was not raised in our call for evidence as a major issue to address youth vaping, we just do not feel that the new clause is necessary at this time.

We will of course keep this under review and continue to monitor the evidence base. As I said, I have urgently commissioned proper research into the effects in the short, medium and long terms, and I hope to make further announcements on exactly what I am doing during the Bill’s passage.

Photo of Angela Richardson Angela Richardson Deputy Chair, Conservative Party

Sometimes I think that when people listening to this debate hear the words “no evidence” or “lack of evidence”, they assume that that means there is nothing at all wrong with vaping. Will my right hon. Friend make it clear to anyone listening that there is a difference between not having done sufficient studies to gain the evidence and having no evidence of any harm?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

Yes, I am very happy to do that. My hon. Friend is exactly right: saying that we do not have the evidence right now is not the same as saying that vaping is not harmful. As I said, the chief medical officer has said that although we can be fine consuming strawberry sherbet ice cream in our tummies, it may not be so good to inhale it. We simply do not know what the truth is. We do believe that carcinogens may be innate in some flavours, and we know that vape products can contain heavy metals in the coils. We know that there can be significant harms from vaping, especially to children. I am happy to state once again, “If you don’t smoke, don’t vape, and children should never vape.”

With those remarks, I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland will not press the new clause to a vote.

Photo of Trudy Harrison Trudy Harrison Conservative, Copeland

There could be no better Minister to convince me of her concern for babies, children and young people. On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter Conservative, South West Devon

I am flying a bit free here, but new clauses 16, 19, 20 and 22, all tabled by the hon. Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham, may have been caught by the Minister’s commitment to look deeply into the advertising issue and might therefore not be moved. However, I want to give Members the opportunity to do so if they wish.

It appears that the Minister’s reassurance has convinced the Committee.

Question proposed, That the Chair do report the Bill, as amended, to the House.

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

I rise to thank all Members, on both sides, for their time, their focus, and their really well thought through and considered contributions in this Committee. The scrutiny has been carried out in the best traditions of this place, aiming to achieve something that this Parliament can be proud of.

I also thank you, Sir Gary, for your excellent chairmanship—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”]—and all the other Chairs who have taken us through this life-changing Bill, as well as the officials and civil servants who have supported us, and the Bill team, who did extremely well in putting this together. Finally, I thank the Clerks, who always brilliantly support everything that goes on in this place.

Photo of Preet Kaur Gill Preet Kaur Gill Shadow Minister (Primary Care and Public Health)

I echo the Minister’s thanks. This Bill implements a flagship public health policy, and all of us are privileged to have taken part in the passage of this world-leading legislation. It is really important that we have heard so many powerful testimonies about the health impacts of smoking, but parents are also worried about the increase in youth vaping, so the fact that we are to ban the marketing and sale of vapes to children will be welcomed by many people across the country.

I put on record my thanks to you, Sir Gary, for brilliantly chairing our sittings, and to the Minister, who has been very gracious in her responses. I thank colleagues on both sides of the Committee; it has been brilliant to work with them all and to reach a degree of consensus, although I have no doubt there will be many more things to discuss on Report. I also thank the Clerks and everyone on the Bill team. It has been a privilege.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill, as amended, accordingly to be reported.

Committee rose.

Written evidence reported to the House

TVB 40 Arcus Compliance Ltd

TVB 41 Cancer Research UK

TVB 42 HM Revenue & Customs

TVB 43 Asthma + Lung UK

TVB 44 British Heart Foundation

TVB 45 Philip Morris Limited

TVB 46 National Fire Chiefs Council

TVB 47 Institute for Social Marketing and Health, University of Stirling

TVB 48 The Children's Commissioner

TVB 49 Correspondence submitted by C.Gars Ltd (on the composition of the membership and selection of witnesses)

TVB 50 Correspondence submitted by Daniel Freeman - Director - James J Fox (on the composition of the membership and selection of witnesses)

TVB 51 Correspondence submitted by the Imported Tobacco Products, Advisory Council (on the composition of the membership and selection of witnesses)

TVB 52 Correspondence submitted by Rupert Lewis, Director, Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association (TMA) (on the composition of the membership and selection of witnesses)

TVB 53 Correspondence submitted by the Association of Independent Tobacco Specialists (on the composition of the membership and selection of witnesses)

TVB 54 Correspondence submitted by John Dunne, Director General of the UK Vaping Industry Association, to George Howarth MP, (on incorrect information presented to the Tobacco and Vapes Bill Committee)

TVB 56 Mental Health and Smoking Partnership (MHSP)