The Prime Minister of the UK Rishi Sunak has proposed raising the minimum age to purchase cigarettes and tobacco products by one year annually, with the goal of eliminating the market for these products altogether.
In parliament, Rishi Sunak stated members would be allowed to vote whichever they want.
Under the proposal, the minimum age to purchase tobacco would gradually increase from 18 to ensure that a 14-year-old today could never legally purchase the product. In 2022, a government-ordered study proposed the concept.
Mr. Sunak, speaking at the Conservative party conference, argued that this was the best way to address the top cause of preventable illness.
One in four fatalities from cancer is attributable to smoking, and it also raises the risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, and stillbirth.
“No amount of smoking is safe,” he declared.Incidences of smoking have been decreasing since the 1970s. However, over five million people in England and six million people in the UK continue to smoke every day.
According to the Office of National Statistics, now 1 in 9 people between the ages of 18 and 24 smoke cigarettes.
Mr. Sunak said during the conference, “If we want to do the right thing for our kids, we must endeavour to stop them from picking up smoking in the first place.
As he put it, “because without a significant change, thousands of children will start smoking in the coming years and have their lives cut short.”
By the age of 20, four out of five smokers are regulars. Most people eventually make an effort to stop, but many fail because of their addiction.
In response to ministers’ request for innovative strategies to combat smoking, former Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan proposed a gradual increase in the smoking age last year.
Boris Johnson’s administration, which was in power at the time, claimed such a change was highly improbable.
However, Mr. Sunak has decided to support it as a means of helping England achieve the government’s goal of becoming cigarettes free by 2030, when less than 5% of the population would be active smokers.
There would be no government whip telling Tory lawmakers how to vote, he claimed, referring to the next vote in parliament.
This is a matter of conscience, and I want you all and the country to know where mine lies,” the prime minister stated.
New Zealand is also considering a law similar to this one, which would make it illegal for anybody born after 2008 to purchase tobacco products.
To combat the alarming rise in youth vaping, Mr. Sunak said the government would explore limiting the sale of disposable vapes and examine the flavourings and packaging of the devices. A complete sales prohibition is one possible solution.
Michelle Mitchell, from Cancer Research UK, called the announcement raising the smoking age a “critical step.”
Putting the health of UK citizens ahead of the interests of the tobacco lobby, “if implemented, the prime minister will deserve great credit.”
Deborah Arnott of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) called the measures unveiled today a “unprecedented” combination of steps that will speed forward the day when smoking is no longer acceptable.
UK’s Agenda on Cigarettes
Cigarette smoking in the United Kingdom has seen a significant decline over the years due to various public health initiatives, increased awareness of the risks associated with smoking, and changes in tobacco regulations. Here are some key points related to cigarette smoking in the UK:
- Smoking Rates: Smoking rates in the UK have been steadily decreasing over the past few decades. This decline is attributed to anti-smoking campaigns, higher taxes on tobacco products, and smoking cessation programs.
- Legislation: The UK government has introduced several legislative measures to discourage smoking. This includes a ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces and workplaces, plain packaging for cigarettes, and the introduction of graphic health warnings on cigarette packs.
- Health Risks: Smoking is a leading cause of preventable deaths in the UK. It is associated with numerous health risks, including lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, and respiratory diseases. These health risks have contributed to a greater awareness of the dangers of smoking.
- Smoking Cessation Services: The UK has established various smoking cessation services to help people quit smoking. These services provide support, counseling, and access to smoking cessation aids like nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and prescription medications.
- Tobacco Control Policies: The UK government has implemented a comprehensive tobacco control strategy aimed at reducing smoking rates. This strategy includes measures to discourage youth smoking, promote smoke-free environments, and increase the price of tobacco products.
- E-cigarettes: The use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes or vaping) has become increasingly popular in the UK as an alternative to traditional smoking. While e-cigarettes are considered less harmful than tobacco cigarettes, their long-term health effects are still being studied.
- Smoking-Related Costs: Smoking imposes significant economic costs on the UK healthcare system due to the treatment of smoking-related illnesses. It also leads to productivity losses and premature deaths, which have both social and economic implications.
- Future Goals: The UK government has set ambitious goals to further reduce smoking rates, with the aim of making the country smoke-free by 2030. This means achieving a smoking prevalence of less than 5%.