Tobacco and Vapes Bill

Written evidence submitted by the European Smoking Tobacco Association (ESTA) (TVB24)

About the European Smoking Tobacco Association (ESTA), E.E.I.G.

1. ESTA represents the interest of its members, which are mainly smaller and mid-sized tobacco companies that manufacture and/or distribute fine-cut tobacco (FCT), pipe tobacco and traditional European chewing tobacco and nasal snuff tobacco. Many of these companies are family-owned, and have been for multiple generations, with several for more than a century. Their factories are still based in the same localities as where they were started in the more rural regions of Europe. ESTA therefore represents a tobacco entrepreneurship whose values are tied to traditional products and a longstanding cultural heritage.

Executive Summary

2. As part of the Call for Evidence pertaining to the Tobacco and Vaping Bill [1] , ESTA would like to draw the attention of the Public Bill Committee to the following aspects of the proposed measure (in particular clauses 1, 37 and 48 as well as clause 2) which we believe have been overlooked:

· A generational ban of tobacco is a measure that in principle criminalises retailers to absolve the State of its obligations towards consumers;

· There is no indication that an generational ban of tobacco will be easier to enforce that the already existing prohibition to sell tobacco products to underage;

· The proposed measure, which is claimed to focus on the younger age groups, ignores that these individuals do not consume, nor are initiated to tobacco smoking, via traditional and niche tobacco products. Yet it is considered that the proposed measure applies to these products indiscriminately and unjustifiably;

· The Government’s impact assessment is erroneous in stating that the measure would raise approximately £18.6 billion, as it is not demonstrated that the measure would lead to smoking cessation or decreased smoking initiation, rather than consumers sourcing tobacco from the illicit market.

A policy that is set to fail is not one that is worth adopting

3. A so-called generational ban is set to fail. It will fail in achieving health objectives (as illicit trade will flourish) and it will fail a free society by denying adults to buy legal products whilst spurring on illicit trade and the criminality which comes with it. New Zealand was the first country in the world to adopt such a generational ban in 2022, which it already overturned in March 2024, due to, amongst other, a flourishing black market.

4. ESTA is a proponent of legislation that is enforceable. Any law is as good as its acceptance by the general public and their compliance with it, whilst it must also be a law that is (easily) enforceable. Having aspirations to intervene in people’s lives ‘for their own good’ has its limits in acceptance by general public. Moreover, the principle to intervene in the private lives/habits of individuals must come with a thorough assessment of not only the necessary scientific underpinning and its proportionality, but also with all foreseeable consequences.

5. The proposed ban is shifting private and state responsibilities to retailers. Any decision not to consume a product should normally be left to individual adults, or in absence of any alternative to governments to ban use, rather than to ban its sales in isolation. With this proposed measure, however, the government is not taking its responsibility to ban the use of tobacco if deemed to be too dangerous, nor it recognises adult individuals the responsibility to choose for themselves.

6. The proposed ban puts the responsibility for ensuring compliance with retailers that somehow have to be able to distinguish adults born after a certain year from other adults. That can only truly be ensured by asking for an ID when a purchase is made, something that leads to the stigmatisation of all adults, as no other purchase of any fast moving consumer good requires such a process.

7. The proposed measures will cause a rise in an already burgeoning illegal trade, which is mainly due to continuous excise duty increases and the cost of living crisis. Given the UK’s proximity to mainland Europe, previously law-abiding consumers have no choice to switch to cheaper, un-taxed or un-regulated illegal products if they choose to continue smoking. A prohibition will only spur on illicit trade. In addition, products currently not traded illicitly will also start being made available by criminals, including pipe tobacco and other niche products.

8. Perhaps reflecting on why the current ban for underage adults already does not fully work would be more appropriate. A case in point is that underage consumers can today already not purchase tobacco products, but apparently do so. We strongly believe that the Government should be first and foremost concentrating on stronger enforcement against retailers who sell tobacco to minors, alongside more targeted education campaigns which are effective deterrents to prevent young people from initiation.

9. The Minister for Primary Care and Public Health recently stated that the policy pursued over recent decades "has emphasised personal responsibility and help for people to quit", adding that "it is the help for current smokers to quit that we want to focus on". This statement demonstrates that the Government clearly recognises that there are available alternatives, but for some reason changes tack veering off in a direction which will contribute to illegal trade.

A generational ban that unjustifiably applies to niche and traditional tobacco products

10. The stated aim of the policy is to "further reduce the number of young people taking up smoking". As a result, the modelling assumptions in the policy paper’s annex focuses on the 14 to 30 age group. It is therefore questionable that the same policy is to also apply to products that almost none of the above-mentioned consumers use, namely traditional niche tobacco products such as pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco or nasal snuff.

11. These 3 products categories together were the first tobacco experience of only 1.2% of all smokers and ex-smokers in the UK according to the 2021 Eurobarometer report [2] . This demonstrates that these products are not associated with smoking initiation or nicotine uptake.

12. These findings are also consistent with that of the 2021 European Commission’s Support Study to the report on the application of Directive 2014/40/EU, which found practically no use of pipe tobacco in the UK in the under-25 age group [3] .

13. In addition to being artisanal products, being very niche with declining volume, not being appealing to young and not associated with smoking initiation, these products also are not consumed daily, but rather enjoyed occasionally by responsible and well-informed adults. The above-mentioned Eurobarometer also confirmed that barely 1% of all smokers in the UK smokes pipe tobacco daily.

The likely impact of the proposed measure were not seriously assessed

14. The Impact Assessment accompanying the proposed measure is based on the unrealistic assumption that instigation rates would decline by 30% each year. Not once does the Impact Assessment actually discusses how likely this assumption really is, nor compares it with the possibility that consumers instead continue accessing tobacco products through the black market.

15. The very large majority of the potential benefits as estimated in the Impact Assessment are associated with ‘productivity gain’. It is in fact not demonstrated that a worker taking a smoking break is less productive than a worker taking a non-smoking break. It is also not demonstrated that not taking breaks increases productivity if these result in reduced attention. Therefore, the positive impacts of the proposed measure were clearly overestimated, if not partly invented.


16. If the Government’s real objective is to curb smoking initiation amongst young Britons, then it should reflect on the likely consequence of its proposed measure. In particular, the government should better assess the risks that it creates a wider illicit market (and therefore availability of untaxed and unregulated tobacco products). ESTA also invites the government to reflect on the added value of including niche, traditional and artisan tobacco products within the scope of a possible ban.

30 April 2024

[1] UK Parliament, Tobacco and Vaping Bill: call for evidence, 17 April 2024, here.

[2] Eurobarometer, Attitudes of Europeans towards tobacco and electronic cigarettes, n° 506, February 2021.

[3] European Commission, Final Report: Support Study to the report on the application of Directive 2014/40/EU,

[3] May 2021, p. 291


Prepared 2nd May 2024