These proposals are the next big step to a smoke-free society, says College Chair

Responding to the Prime Minister’s speech at the Conservative Party conference which outlined proposals to phase ban smoking and restrict access to disposable vapes for children, Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “As a GP of 35 years’ standing, I have seen the devastating consequences of smoking on my patients’ health. It is much easier to never have started smoking, than trying to stop once a habit has formed, so we welcome these proposals aimed at creating our first-ever generation of non-smokers.

“While vaping has been seen as a way of encouraging existing smokers to give up, we are increasingly concerned about the impact and influence this is having on impressionable young people and children.

“The UK does provide strong regulation on the sale of e-cigarettes, but many vapes are being marketed in a way that is very appealing to children with bright colours, sweet flavours and quirky designs resembling highlighter pens.

“In a short space of time, we’ve seen a significant uptake in the number of young people, who may well have never smoked tobacco – using products for which there has been insufficient research into the long-term health impacts. We are also very concerned about vapes bought online or from other unreputable sources containing varying quantities of nicotine and other harmful chemicals.

“We don’t underestimate how hard it can be for some patients to give up smoking, and now vaping in some cases, but we hope that the proposals announced by the Prime Minister today will be the next big step towards a smoke-free society. We’ve made huge strides already in the campaign to stop smoking - it’s now hard to imagine the time when smoking in enclosed spaces and even on public transport was a normal part of our lives, but the health benefits of the 2007 smoking ban speak for themselves.

“In 2022, we saw the lowest proportion of smokers since records began, falling to 12.9% of adults from 22% in 2006. We’re on the right track and we now need to build on this progress, particularly in protecting our next generation from a lifestyle choice that could consign them to years of ill health and premature death, and to protect our NHS from having to deal with the consequences.”

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Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 54,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.