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New ‘vape tax’ to discourage non-smokers from vaping

New ‘vape tax’ to discourage non-smokers from vaping

A new tax on vaping products will be introduced from October 2026, chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced in yesterday’s Spring Budget.

Health and Social Care Committee (HSCC) chair and Conservative MP for Winchester Steve Brine called for the tax to be implemented even sooner than planned, welcoming it as a move to discourage vaping among children.

But questions have been raised about the impact the tax could have on smokers using vaping to quit.

Introducing the Spring Budget yesterday in the House of Commons, Mr Hunt said that ‘to discourage non-smokers from taking up vaping’, the government would introduce an excise duty on vaping products from October 2026, and would be consulting on how the tax was designed.

‘Because vapes can also play a positive role in helping people quit smoking, we will introduce a one-off increase in tobacco duty at the same time to maintain the financial incentive to choose vaping over smoking,’ he added.

The Government suggested that the duty on vapes is intended ‘to protect young people and children from the harm of vaping’, while the one-off increase in tobacco duty is meant ‘to recognise the role vapes play in helping people to quit smoking’.

Mr Brine said the HSCC ‘fully recognise that vaping offers an important route out of smoking for those wanting to quit’ and ‘welcome the new tax on vapes to discourage their use by children’.

He added: ‘If there is any way it can be introduced sooner than October 2026 that would be important to protect children from the risks of vaping sooner rather than later.

‘The Government should urgently press ahead with changes they’ve already announced to make vaping less accessible and appealing to young people as part of still awaited Smoking and Vaping Bill.’

But questions have been raised about whether the increased price of vapes might discourage smokers from using vaping to quit.

Professor Maggie Rae, president, and Dr Nicola Stingelin-Giles, council member, of the Epidemiology & Public Health Section, Royal Society of Medicine, said: ‘Smoking tobacco is the biggest cause of entirely preventable illness and death in the UK. Helping people stop smoking is one of the best things we can do for people’s health and, therefore, is a public health priority. 

‘Vapes, or e-cigarettes, that contain nicotine can be effective tools to aid this. While vaping is not risk-free, and more research is needed to fully understand the health effects, the harms are known to be substantially less than those of smoking tobacco. 

‘The rise in uptake of vaping amongst non-smokers – and particularly children and young people – is an area of huge concern and we welcome efforts to address this. These include the proposed ban on disposable vapes, and restrictions on flavours and packaging, aimed directly at making vaping less attractive for younger people.’ 

But the scientists added that it is ‘imperative we ensure medicinal use of vapes to aid people to stop smoking continues to be encouraged, as smoking cessation remains the matter of greater importance’.

The said: ‘Introducing a tax which makes vaping more expensive must be carefully considered to ensure the positives are not outweighed by any resulting harmful effects on health, especially where there is a risk of widening inequity in our society. It’s important we focus smoking cessation efforts on helping those people in the most at-risk groups who stand to lose the most.

‘This is a complex area with no easy decisions, but the primary goal has to be delivering the greatest health benefits for the public. We welcome the debate on the best means of doing this.’

Pharmacist Thorrun Govind told Pulse’s sister title The Pharmacist: ‘We want people to be encouraged to vape rather than smoke, so if they are vaping in order to assist smoking cessation then we shouldn’t be penalising them for doing so and appropriate healthcare advice should be provided.’

But she said she agreed with the tax where people were not using vaping as a smoking cessation aid.

‘If vapes are going to continue to be available anywhere on the high street, with a lack of information about whether they are for smoking cessation or not, then they should be taxed like smoking,’ Ms Govind said.

And she added that people ‘aren’t being adequately advised of the risks of vaping’.

The chancellor also announced of an additional £2.5bn funding for the NHS – suggesting a 1% annual growth of real terms day to day spending – as well as investing around £3.4bn in updating NHS IT systems, which he said would save £35bn overall. This would include improvements to the NHS App, a new NHS staff app, electronic patient records for hospitals and greater use of artificial intelligence (AI).

General practice did not get a mention.

The chancellor also announced a 2p reduction in National Insurance contributions from 6 April.

A version of this article was first published by Pulse’s sister title The Pharmacist


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