Clause 34 - Interpretation of Part 1

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

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

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.