Clause 62 - Contents and flavour of vaping products and nicotine products

Part of Tobacco and Vapes Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 10:45 am ar 14 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Preet Kaur Gill Preet Kaur Gill Shadow Minister (Primary Care and Public Health) 10:45, 14 Mai 2024

I thank the Minister for her explanation of the clause. As I have already outlined, we are very concerned about the explosion in under-age vaping in recent years, with youth use trebling in the past two years alone. I think I speak for everyone in the Labour party when I say that we have been very concerned about some of the products appearing on our local shop shelves, which are obviously marketed to children.

I do not want to lump the whole of the industry in together, but some of these companies are clearly linked to big tobacco and have used big tobacco-style tactics to target youngsters. They see the way things are going with smoking and have sought to addict a new generation through vapes and other products. We therefore support the clause, which will allow us to stop products with flavours mimicking popular sweets or with bizarre names like “unicorn shake” from sucking young people and other vulnerable non-smokers in. I am afraid to say that the Government have been asleep at the wheel on this issue, and there has been a bit of a free-for-all as a result. I was flabbergasted to learn from the MHRA that something like 600,000 different vaping products have gone through the notification process and can legally be sold in the UK now.

All that said, I do appreciate the genuine and legitimate concern from people who have used vapes to help them quit smoking that, in seeking to course correct, the Government could go too far in the other direction and take away the flavours that they enjoy and feel have helped them stay off cigarettes. I appreciate that my hon. Friend the Member for North Tyneside has raised concerns to that effect, and I want to reassure her that we are committed to consulting on this issue before introducing regulations, so that we can get the balance right.

I have mentioned on previous clauses that when it comes to tobacco regulation, some of the restrictions on flavours have been among the least successful of any regulations brought in by successive Governments in recent decades. In the disappointment of the menthol ban is the cautionary tale that implementing these regulations will take thought and care. Similarly, the quagmire that the Food and Drug Administration in the US has sunk into is something we should obviously seek to avoid. I wonder if the Minister could therefore comment on what lessons she has drawn from the US, where the blanket ban on flavours has seen only a few dozen products approved for legal sale in three years, while illegal products remain widely available in stores.

The key issue we need to crack is what the best way is of dealing with flavours—is it descriptors, ingredients or the characterising flavour itself? On the latter point, I have already mentioned the menthol ban. Can the Minister please set out her view on how to proceed, given that the Bill leaves the specifics of how to implement restrictions on flavours quite open, including how the flavour of a product is to be determined. Has she conducted a systematic review of how Governments in other jurisdictions have sought to tackle this? Given our desire to protect the use of vapes as a smoking cessation aid, can she set out how restrictive she thinks regulations on flavours should be? Would she go as far as Canada in banning all fruit flavours, for instance? Given that the powers in the clause may be some of the trickiest to implement, I would be grateful if she could devote time in her response to answering these questions.