Seven sorts of reasons to support the Tobacco and Vapes Bill 2024’s (apparently) strange approach to age limits

by Professor John Coggon, University of Bristol Law School

The Tobacco and Vapes Bill’s introduction to, and now passage through, Parliament has reignited debates on fundamentals of political authority and public health ethics; debates about the meaning and reach of fundamental freedoms, the scope and limits of the state’s protective functions, and ultimately the boundaries of legitimate government intervention. Amongst its provisions, particular interest has been sparked by the bill’s creation of an offence of selling tobacco products, herbal smoking products, and cigarette papers to persons born on or after 1st January, 2009, and the buying of such products for such persons. Questions have been raised about the coherence and justifiability of these measures. Limitations defined by reference to a fixed birth date rather than a specified age (say a ban regarding persons under 18) are not unprecedented. But they are extraordinary. However, both the extraordinariness here, and its moral significance, have been overstated. In this blog, I give background critical context, and then explain seven sorts of reasons why the bill’s approach is less remarkable than may be thought—and with that, rather harder to challenge. (more…)