Clause 34 - Interpretation of Part 1

Tobacco and Vapes Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 9:25 am ar 14 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

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

Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter Ceidwadwyr, South West Devon

With this it will be convenient to debate clauses 35 and 36 stand part.

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

Clauses 34 and 35 set out the definitions of tobacco, vaping and nicotine products for interpretation within the Bill. Clause 36 substitutes the definition of “tobacco product” in the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002.

Clause 34 sets out definitions for the purpose of interpreting part 1 of the Bill. A tobacco product is defined as

“a product consisting wholly or partly of tobacco and intended to be smoked, sniffed, sucked, chewed or consumed in any other way.”

All tobacco products are harmful for health, so this revised definition will ensure that all future novel tobacco products are captured by the legislation.

Another significant definition is “vaping product”, which means either a vape—a device—or a vaping substance, which means

“a substance, other than tobacco, that is intended to be vaporised by a vape”.

A vaping product is one that contains nicotine as well as one that does not.

Clause 35 provides a definition of “nicotine product”, used throughout part 1 of the Bill. The definition used is to capture other consumer nicotine delivery devices and products, such as nicotine pouches, that are not currently regulated but whose use has increased among young people. This definition is important to ensure that we capture the right types of products that might be targeted at or used by children in the future through any secondary legislation that the Government introduce to protect children from future harm and addiction.

Clause 36 substitutes the definition of “tobacco product” in the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002. This ensures that all future novel tobacco products are captured by the advertising and display bans under the Tobacco and Advertising Promotion Act. I commend clauses 34, 35 and 36 to the Committee.

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

This is, of course, an extremely important part of the Bill, as it defines many of the terms used in it. We know how adept the industry has become at worming its way around the spirit of regulations that Parliament has debated and agreed in the past. The ban on menthol cigarettes is one example. The clause sets out a series of definitions of what is covered by various terms that we have been using, such as “herbal smoking products”, “retail packaging” and “cigarette papers”. It is very important.

We know, and I think we should expect, that the industry will innovate in response to this legislation, and not necessarily in helpful ways. We must ensure that the wording of the definitions we use is specific enough not to have unintended consequences, but broad enough that we do not allow industry to get around them.

I appreciate that this is all tricky, but I have a few quick comments. I mentioned when we debated clause 11 that there is no definition of “retailer” in the Bill, and my concern related to vending machines. Can the Minister please provide clarity on which powers granted under this Bill enable Government to regulate vending machines for vapes and other nicotine products, if that was deemed necessary? If she cannot answer now, can she please write to me on that?

I also want to raise the issue of accessories. I mentioned the ban on menthol cigarettes introduced in 2020, which was no doubt a cautionary tale for us in ensuring that we give careful thought to designing regulations on flavoured vapes. A study published in the journal Tobacco Control, and part-funded by Cancer Research UK, surveyed 66,000 adults in England, Wales and Scotland from October 2020—five months after the menthol ban was introduced—to March 2023. It found that the number of adult smokers who reported using menthol-flavoured cigarettes at the start of the study period stayed stable at 14%, compared with 16% two and half years earlier. That may simply indicate the size of the illicit market, but the survey also found that only 15% of those who smoked menthol-flavoured cigarettes reported buying from illicit sources, such as under the counter: a proportion similar to those who smoked non-flavoured cigarettes. That instead suggests that the tobacco industry has quite adept legal loopholes to circumvent the ban.

Researchers think that that indicated that people are using legal accessories, including menthol-flavoured drops, filter balls or cards, or that they are purchasing cigarettes perceived to contain menthol flavouring without it being labelled as such. We will come back to the issue of defining flavours and those specific loopholes in other clauses, but I want to ask here about accessories such as drops, flavour cards and so on. I have looked up those products online and they are blatantly marketed for use with cigarettes—we can buy 25 packs of “rizla menthol extreme infusion flavour cards” for £9 on Amazon.

What lessons have the Government learned from that? They were meant to publish a review of the legislation in 2021, but as far as I am aware, they did not. Have the Government looked at an expanded definition of tobacco products that would include accessories? If it is appropriate to look at something more narrow and targeted in its scope, would the Minister consider specifically looking at clause 59 on the flavour of tobacco products? Expanding the regulation-making powers to include tobacco-related products and accessories would enable regulations to be designed to capture menthol flavourings and all its derivatives and analogues, including add-on accessories to cigarettes to mask the taste of tobacco. I appreciate that the Minister has until now said that we should not let perfect be the enemy of good, but that is quite a crucial issue.

First, as I mentioned, the Government already promised to review that a few years ago, so I hope that they have a considered response to those questions either way. Secondly, the same principles apply to the flavours of vapes. With the disposable bans, consumers are effectively being encouraged to assemble their devices themselves to reduce waste. If we do not think carefully about the issue of accessories, I am concerned that we will see similar workarounds in that market too, which will undermine the efficacy of the legislation. If the Minister does not have the information to hand, could she please write to me on that?

Clause 35 provides a definition of “nicotine product” that, as we have heard, captures things that are not vapes or tobacco products, and could include things such as nicotine pouches. In the national conversation about vapes, we could easily see how more unscrupulous companies that have been marketing to children would look to pivot to other products if we do not capture them with this Bill and the regulations that it allows for.

I reiterate my earlier question to ensure that the Minister takes it away. Given the inclusion of that definition of “nicotine product” in the Bill, where does she see it necessary for the Government to introduce further regulation of those products—for example, whether they should be included in a notification process or something similar? We of course support those powers and I think the Committee agree on that, but I am keen to understand how advanced her and the Government’s thinking is on this.

Finally, clause 36 amends the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002, which was brought in under the Labour Government. That seems eminently sensible and I support it. While we are on the subject, the Minister mentioned in the first line-by-line debate that she has recently written to the Advertising Standards Authority about its work and the trends it is seeing. I would be very interested in seeing its response and I would be grateful if the Minister could share that with me too.

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

I am not going to reiterate the points made by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston, but I want to add my voice to those who are very concerned about ensuring that the Bill takes full account of all the different products. During the course of the last few days of debate, we have heard about the large number of different products out there. I think it is profoundly important that we do all we can to try to look to the future and ensure that there are as few loopholes as possible for the tobacco and vaping companies to take advantage of.

As we have heard, they are very able and enthusiastic about doing so. I am keen to hear the Minister’s thoughts on whether the clause does enough, or whether she shares my concern that there are things we cannot conceive of yet that will be in the minds of those companies. As we consider the Bill, we need to ensure that we are not leaving gaps that will be rapidly filled by products that will harm people, particularly young people.

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 9:45, 14 Mai 2024

As all hon. Members know, the whole point of the Bill—its definitions and secondary legislation—is to enable us to stay ahead of the horrendous trade of trying to get children addicted so that they can then be captivated, and the novel ways in which big tobacco and the vaping industry are trying to capture people while they are still too young to understand the long-term harms. That is what lies behind the Bill, so hon. Members do not need to be concerned that we are missing the opportunity to stay ahead of that game.

I wrote to all Committee members last night, and there are copies of the letter in the room, with some of the answers to the questions of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston about vape vending machines. I will look at whether there is more that I can say about how we will stay ahead of novel ideas such as vaping solutions and products, but I think all those questions have been answered in the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 34 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 35 to 38 ordered to stand part of the Bill.