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UK's youth smoking ban plans would likely be enforced in NI (even if the DUP is against it)

The DUP’s seven MPs all voted against the Tobacco and Vapes Bill in the House of Commons.

NORTHERN IRELAND’S DEPARTMENT of Health has said that it expects the UK’s proposed youth smoking ban to apply to the region.

This is despite the Democratic Unionist Party’s (DUP’s) seven MPs all voting against the Tobacco and Vapes Bill.

The new legislation would make it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born after 1 January 2009, with the aim of creating a “smoke-free” generation.

The bill would also more tightly regulate vape sales, such as by restricting the packaging and display locations of vapes in shops.

The bill was passed by 383 to 67 in the UK’s House of Commons yesterday, with the seven DUP MPs among those opposed.

While the measure has been passed in the UK parliament, it is still subject to approval by the Northern Ireland Assembly.

In a statement to The Journal, Northern Ireland’s Department of Health said: “The Northern Ireland Executive has agreed that a Legislative Consent Motion (LCM) is progressed to allow for Northern Ireland inclusion in the UK Government Bill.  

“Victoria Atkins, [the UK] Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, has confirmed that Northern Ireland will be included in the Bill subject to Northern Ireland Assembly agreement.  

“A legislative consent memorandum was laid with the NI Assembly Business Office on 26 March 2024. Subject to Assembly agreement, we are unaware of any barriers to NI inclusion in the measures.”

Questioned by The Journal on why the party opposed the bill, the DUP said: “We are pressing [for] the regulation of vaping to be included which is not at the moment.”

The party referenced comments made by DUP MP Jim Shannon, who said during the Commons debate that he “had been contacted by vaping groups” and that they were concerned about “restricting vape users and smokers looking to switch”.

He referenced efforts by vaping producers for a “vape retailer and distributor licensing scheme under the bill”.

Victoria Atkins, the UK’s minister of state for Health, said in response: “We understand the level of lobbying that has been undertaken by both the vaping industry and the tobacco industry. We know that the vaping industry has pushed that as one of its lines.”

However, Emma Little-Pengelly, a DUP MLA and Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister, said today that there are a “range of views” on the proposed measure.

“What the [Northern Ireland] Executive agreed is that legislation should be subject to a Legislative Consent Motion (LCM) to give the Assembly the opportunity to take at look at that,” she told the media in Belfast today.

“When we agreed the LCM, we didn’t see all of those clauses in it, and we want to facilitate the Assembly having the opportunity to examine that.

“The Bill may well be subject to a range of further amendments, so of course the agreement to the LCM is in principle facilitating our potential extension to Northern Ireland to that Bill, but we of course need to look at the clauses within that. We will have to examine it very carefully.”

Michelle O’Neill, Northern Ireland’s first minister, welcomed the move.

“We know the dangers of smoking, we know how detrimental it is to our health service … this can only be a good thing, particularly for the younger people and going forward into the future generations,” she said.

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