Clause 3 - Tobacco vending machines

Tobacco and Vapes Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 12:00 pm ar 9 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

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

The clause restates the ban on tobacco vending machines in England and Wales. This prohibition came into force in 2011 in England and 2012 in Wales through regulations made under the Children and Young Persons (Protection from Tobacco) Act 1991, which made it an offence for anyone who manages or controls premises to have a tobacco vending machine available for use. The offence applied to selling both tobacco products and herbal smoking products from a vending machine. Herbal smoking products were included due to their harmful nature when smoked.

The prohibition was originally introduced because tobacco vending machines were largely unsupervised and allowed under-age access to tobacco. In 2010, 8% of 11 to 15-year-olds who regularly smoked said that vending machines were a usual source of cigarettes. This policy has successfully reduced smoking rates among young people and has been effective at enabling the age of sale restrictions to be implemented and enforced properly.

The existing legislation has been restated to provide a coherent narrative in the Bill on tobacco measures and to assist with the tidying of the statute book. I therefore commend the clause to the Committee.

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

We of course support the aims of this clause, which as the Minister said, effectively restates regulations that were introduced under the previous Labour Government, making the person who controls or is responsible for the management of premises where a vending machine is located liable to commit an offence if tobacco sales are made.

We are concerned about how easily children could access tobacco from vending machines, and the availability of tobacco from machines undermines efforts by adult smokers to quit. As the Minister said, when Labour introduced these regulations, evidence showed that vending machines were a usual source of cigarettes for 12% of young people aged 11 to 15 who were regular smokers. I venture that is 0% now, so the measure has been effective. Why has she decided to re-enact existing law on that matter through the Bill, given the existing regulations?

On a wider point, the purpose of those regulations was to stop children readily accessing tobacco products, but I note that the Bill contains no similar provisions on the availability of other vaping and nicotine products through vending machines. I would be surprised if her officials had not looked at this issue, but there is no mention of vending machines in the entire 164-page impact assessment, despite reports of new vending machines being introduced in England that include an automated age-verification feature.

I am keen to hear the Minister’s thinking on that point. Could vending machines undermine other regulations in the Bill that are providing powers to regulate vape and nicotine product points of sale and displays, as well as reinforcing and closing the loopholes on the age of sale?

Photo of Dr Caroline Johnson Dr Caroline Johnson Ceidwadwyr, Sleaford and North Hykeham 12:15, 9 Mai 2024

I welcome clause 3. It is sensible that we protect children from having easy access to products that we have decided should be age-restricted, and it is clearly sensible that tobacco products be age-restricted —that is part of the purpose of the whole Bill. However, clause 3 does not extend to vaping products or other nicotine products. We know that the use of such products is becoming increasingly prevalent among children.

As the Minister knows, I have tabled new clause 16, which would create the same offence for nicotine-containing products or vaping products to be sold in vending machines because they are age-restricted. It is not usual to have age-restricted products in vending machines and it is my view that children would quickly find a way round machines that are supposed to check their age. Will the Minister look at that sympathetically?

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

The purpose of clause 3, as with a lot of the clauses that we will debate in line-by-line consideration of the Bill, is to tidy up the statute book for the whole tobacco regime, both to align all four nations and to make sure there is a clear understanding of the law where it relates to tobacco, tobacco products and vaping. The fundamental purpose is to tidy up the statute book by restating it with clarity at this critical time.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham made a point about vaping and vending machines. As she will be aware, the Government are taking powers in the Bill to look at issues such as location of sale, packaging and flavours. It was felt that it was important to have further consultation under those powers to look at issues such as whether vaping products should be sold in vending machines. It will be debated at a future time under those regulations. The key point is that we have clarity in the Bill.

Photo of Dr Caroline Johnson Dr Caroline Johnson Ceidwadwyr, Sleaford and North Hykeham

I thank the Minister for that information. She talks about location of sale. I understood location of sale to refer to a geographical location, rather than a method of sale, such as through vending machines. Could she be clearer on that point?

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

I will get back to my hon. Friend on that point, which is a good one. This clause and many others are intended to tidy up the statute book, rather than to introduce new subjects that would be more appropriately considered somewhere else.

Photo of Kirsten Oswald Kirsten Oswald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Women), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Equalities)

I wonder whether I can reflect some of the Minister’s words back to her. She talks about clause 3 providing clarity, but I am afraid that I do not think it provides clarity—it adds a degree of confusion. This is the Tobacco and Vapes Bill, and it is reasonable that people look for measures relating to both those products. It adds an unwelcome level of confusion for us to deal so differently with vapes.

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

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her views. As I said earlier, I will take away all the views expressed in Committee and reflect on them. I am grateful to her for her comments.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 3 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.