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.

Meanwhile, the chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) has suggested the budget was ‘yet another missed opportunity to address chronic underfunding’ within community pharmacy, and Community Pharmacy England (CPE) said there was 'no obvious good news' for struggling community pharmacies.

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.

Pharmacist Thorrun Govind told 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).

The chancellor also announced a 2p reduction in National Insurance contributions from 6 April, as well as £200m of funding to extend the government’s Recovery Loan Scheme as it transitions to the Growth Guarantee Scheme.

He also committed to increase the VAT registration threshold from £85,000 to £90,000 from 1 April which he said ‘will bring tens of thousands of businesses out of paying VAT altogether and encourage many more to invest and grow’.

But CPE chief executive Janet Morrison said the budget contained 'no obvious good news for community pharmacies who need urgent relief from the ongoing unsustainable funding and operational pressures they are facing'.

She added: 'While the investment in Pharmacy First, announced last year, is welcome and has been the most significant investment in pharmacies in a decade, further support is needed to stabilise the sector and its core contractual arrangements.

'If the 1% annual growth in day-to-day NHS spending is applied across primary care this will do little to fill pharmacy’s core funding gap.

'And while the NHS productivity plans may theoretically add some efficiencies across primary care, it remains to be seen if this will bring any real benefit to pharmacies: the devil will be in the detail, and this will not provide the silver bullet that pharmacies so desperately need.'

'Investing further in community pharmacies would be good for businesses, high-streets, patients, the public and the wider NHS,' she said, warning of 'devastating consequences' if closures continue.

Dr Leyla Hannbeck, AIMp chief executive, told The Pharmacist: ‘Community pharmacies nationwide will see this budget as yet another missed opportunity to address chronic underfunding that risks leading to hundreds more local pharmacy closures.

‘Our sector has a shortage of over £1.2 billion in core funding. Without the right investment, the much vaunted Pharmacy First initiative risks becoming little more than a hollow pledge that will fall far short of solving the primary care crisis.’

A spokesperson for the Company Chemists' Association (CCA) also highlighted the 'worrying rate of pharmacy closures', adding: 'With an average of eight closures per week, it is disappointing to not see further funding for the community pharmacy network.'

They said: 'The sector needs additional funding to ensure patients receive the medicines they need.'