MPs call for a ‘smoke-free generation’ by raising age to 21


It is estimated that one in two people born after 1960 in the UK will have some form of cancer diagnosis in their lifetime and smoking is the single biggest avoidable risk.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health has recommended that the legal age to buy cigarettes should be raised from 18 to 21.

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Smoking and Health is chaired by Bob Blackman MP. The secretariat is provided by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).

The purpose of the APPG is to monitor and discuss the health and social effects of smoking.

Bob Blackman MP (Chairman of the APPG, Harrow West, Conservative) said: “Smoking remains the leading cause of premature death and health inequalities.

“Ratcheting up tobacco regulation further and faster is essential to achieve the Government’s vision for prevention, to increase healthy life expectancy by five years by 2035 while reducing inequalities between the richest and poorest in society.”

Alex Cunningham MP (Vice Chair of the APPG, Labour) said: “Our recommendations, if implemented, will reinvigorate the tobacco control strategy and deliver the vision for prevention.

“They range from a new ‘polluter pays’ charge on the tobacco manufacturers to provide essential additional funding, to licensing of all retailers, reducing the exposure of young people to smoking on screen and increasing the age of sale from 18 to 21.

“These measures operate as an integrated package, not a pick and mix set of options.”

Penny Woods, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “We welcome these comprehensive recommendations.

“Action forcing tobacco firms to pick up the bill for tackling the grave harm their industry is doing is especially welcome.

“A ‘polluter pays levy’ could raise at least £150 million. This money, which the highly profitable tobacco industry can easily afford, could fund cash-strapped stop-smoking services and discourage young people from ever lighting up.

“The next step is for the Government to show its commitment to achieving a smoke-free generation by adopting the full list of recommendations and turn them all into law.”

George, a Hanley shopkeeper said: “In regards to them being 18-21, it’s difficult enough as it is to guess the age of 18 because we’ve got to ask them at all but to 21 it’s going to be even harder and consequently I’d rather it stop at 18 where I can gauge the age myself.

“It will affect sales without a shadow of a doubt because 18 to 21s have that chance of buying cigarettes but over 21 is going to make it harder for young ones to get cigarettes which I suppose is a good thing for keeping healthy.”

One Stoke-on-Trent smoker said: “You can’t keep increasing the age of legislation but not actually having anybody there to monitor it and not having consequences for legislation.

“There’s got to be some enforcement as well and not just on the retailers who have managed to be caught out by somebody looking older than they are or fake ID’s but actually for the people who are smoking and there is no consequence to smoking early.

“It’s a whole process, the legislation doesn’t just cure an issue, it’s only a framework and without actually putting the guidance and actions in progress, it’s pointless.”

According to ASH, there has actually been a decrease in the number of smokers in Great Britain, they said: “Overall the proportion of adults (aged 16 and over) smoking in Great Britain has been declining since 1974 when national surveys on smoking first began.

“The fastest decline was in the 1970s and 1980s. Since then smoking has continued to decline but at a slower rate.”


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