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Behind the headlines: How new smoking and vaping laws could impact Yorkshire

The Government has announced its intention to press ahead with plans to create a ‘smokefree generation’ and introduce restrictions to make it harder for young people to vape.

With a new Tobacco and Vapes Bill (1) due to be debated in Parliament in the coming months, we look at the measures and what they might mean for people living in Yorkshire.

Person smoking a disposable vape

Smoking in Yorkshire

The devastating impact that tobacco has on thousands of families living in Yorkshire cannot be underestimated. Every week in our region, 90 people are told they have a cancer caused by smoking and 60 people lose their lives as a consequence (2).

People in Yorkshire are more likely to smoke than in other parts of the country. Smoking disproportionately affects people living in our most disadvantaged communities - 1 in 3 households with people using tobacco live below the poverty line (3).

But it’s not just people who smoke and their friends and families that are affected by tobacco. Each year, smoking costs Yorkshire at least £4.5 billion in healthcare and economic productivity costs (5) – money which could be spent improving early cancer diagnosis or making sure people with cancer get the very best treatment and care.

Yorkshire Cancer Research funds programmes across Yorkshire to help people quit smoking. Some of these programmes involve working in hospitals to help provide expert support to patients who smoke. Others are improving the availability of vaping products alongside stop smoking support for people who want to quit. Vaping is significantly less harmful than smoking, and in Yorkshire, it is successfully helping thousands of people make positive steps towards a healthier future.

However, it’s clear that wider, more far-reaching action is needed to make smoking a thing of the past and significantly reduce its burden on people living in Yorkshire and beyond.

The Government’s ‘smokefree generation’ plan

The Government has set out plans to create a ‘smokefree generation’.

It aims to raise the legal age of using tobacco by one year every year, so that people born on or after 1 January 2009 will never be able to legally buy tobacco products or have them bought by others on their behalf.

More than 4 in 5 people who smoke begin before the age of 20, so this is a welcome step forward and one that could make a huge difference if the law is passed later this year. It could, over time, greatly reduce the number of people who smoke and ultimately save many lives (4).

A concerning rise in the number of young people who vape has caused restrictions on these products to be included in the proposals – including a ban on disposable vapes, restrictions on flavours and less visually appealing packaging.

Vaping should only be used as a tool to quit smoking, and measures to reduce vaping in young people should be introduced, because, while it presents less risk than smoking tobacco, it is not 100% risk free (6).

However, a blanket approach to restrictions on vaping could slow down efforts to help some adults quit smoking.

1 January 2009

People born on or after 1 January 2009 will never be able to legally buy tobacco products

4 in 5 people

More than 4 in 5 people who smoke begin before the age of 20

The vaping dilemma

A balance must be found between helping to stop young people from vaping and encouraging people who smoke to switch to vaping as an aid to quitting.

While restricting flavours may make vapes slightly less appealing for young people, there is more evidence to suggest that this measure could have a discouraging effect on people who use vaping products to stop smoking. Studies have, however, suggested that plainer packaging may reduce the appeal to young people but is less likely to discourage adult use.

If restrictions are taken too far, more people may start to believe vapes are just as unhealthy as tobacco – and this misunderstanding could stop people using them and risk slowing the rise in the number of people quitting successfully.

A ban on disposable vapes could also have a detrimental effect on the quit attempts of people in our region. Thousands of people across Yorkshire are using vapes to quit smoking (7). Disposable vapes are particularly useful for people who cannot access refillable or rechargeable vapes, such as those on no or little income, and those living in mental health and prison settings.

Person holding a disposable vape

What else must be done to help people quit smoking?

A gradual ban on smoking must be supported with other strong measures and funding so it is effectively enforced and so that the illegal sales trade does not thrive as a result.

Treating tobacco addiction and supporting people to stop smoking is also essential. Last year, the Government announced new funding for stop smoking services and public health campaigns. This funding must be used as effectively and as quickly as possible to help people stop smoking, right now.

A tax on the tobacco industry should also be introduced, to help further fund services and programmes to reduce smoking. The cost of tobacco should be substantially raised through higher taxes, and smokefree places should be increased to de-normalise smoking and protect young people.

When it comes to vaping, access for adults who smoke must also be improved. If vapes are placed behind the counter to protect young people, then they should be kept on display so they are easily seen by those wishing to use them to quit. Vapes should also be more affordable than tobacco.

It’s vital that people from our most vulnerable communities are not forgotten. A strong tobacco control plan with sufficient funding and resources is needed to make sure everyone in Yorkshire has the chance to live a long and healthy life, no matter who they are or where they live.

Dr Stuart Griffiths portrait image

Dr Stuart Griffiths

Director of Research and Services

Yorkshire Cancer Research


  1. Creating a smokefree generation and tackling vaping - Department of Health and Social Care
  2. CancerData - National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service 
  3. A third of smoking households in England are living in poverty - Action on Smoking and Health
  4. Smoke-free generation: tobacco control plan for England - Department of Health and Social Care
  5. ASH Ready Reckoner - Action on Smoking and Health
  6. Nicotine vaping in England: 2022 evidence update main findings - Office for Health Improvement and Disparities
  7. Association of prevalence of electronic cigarette use with smoking cessation and cigarette consumption in England - Emma Beard, Robert West, Susan Michie, Jamie Brown