- Sunak considers cigarette ban.
- Tough anti-smoking measures planned.
- Smoking costs society billions.
There are reports that Rishi Sunak is considering a recommendation that would essentially banning cigarettes for the next generation of potential smokers.
The Prime Minister is contemplating the introduction of some of the most stringent anti-smoking measures globally, by incrementally raising the legal age for purchasing and consuming tobacco products, according to Whitehall sources cited by The Guardian.
It is also reported that the possibility of reevaluating Mr. Sunak’s pledge to impose a £10 fine on individuals who miss GP or hospital appointments is under consideration once again.
While Downing Street did not officially confirm these considerations, there is growing speculation about the government’s intentions.
In a significant development last year, a comprehensive review led by Dr. Javed Khan supported England’s alignment with New Zealand’s strategy to implement a progressively increasing smoking age, effectively prohibiting tobacco sales to anyone born on or after 1st January 2009.
Dr. Khan’s recommendation included “raising the minimum age of tobacco product sales by one year annually, ensuring that no one in the country can purchase tobacco.”
By 2026, this method would mean under-15s could never buy cigarettes legally.
However, it’s worth noting that in April, Health Minister Neil O’Brien appeared to oppose this approach when he emphasized the government’s focus on aiding people in quitting smoking rather than enforcing bans.
Nonetheless, it is now apparent that Mr. Sunak is actively exploring alternative policy suggestions to achieve England’s smoke-free target.
In a report commissioned by the government and published in June 2022, Dr. Khan highlighted that without immediate intervention, England could miss the 2030 smoke-free target by a substantial margin, with the most deprived areas not achieving it until 2044.
The survey found that smoking cost society £17 billion annually, with the NHS spending £2.4 billion.
A government spokesperson stated, “Smoking is a lethal habit, resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands each year and placing an enormous burden on the NHS and the economy. Our goal is to encourage more individuals to quit and achieve our ambition of becoming smoke-free by 2030. To this end, we have already implemented measures to reduce smoking rates, such as providing one million smokers in England with free vape kits through our groundbreaking ‘swap to stop’ initiative, launching a voucher program to incentivize pregnant women to quit, and considering mandatory cigarette pack inserts.”
It is important to note that the legal age for purchasing cigarettes and other tobacco products in England and Wales is currently 18, following an increase from 16 in 2007 by the previous Labour government.