The PM wants to create a ‘smoke-free generation’
Rishi Sunak wants to raise the smoking age by one year, every year, meaning a 14-year-old today will “never legally be sold a cigarette” in the UK.
Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference, the prime minister said smoking costs the country UK £17 billion per year and is the single biggest avoidable problem facing the NHS. It causes 64,000 deaths a year in England.
Under Sunak’s plan, he is essentially banned smoking for anyone who is not of legal age to do so now.
The plan, he explained, would be subject to a “free” vote in Parliament, allowing politicians to vote by choice, rather than being directed by party preference.
“When we raised the smoking age to 18, smoking prevalence dropped by 30% in that age group,” Sunak told the conference.
“When the United States raised the age to 21, the smoking rate dropped by 39% in that age group. Smoking places huge pressures on the NHS and costs our country £17bn a year.
Sunak said the plan could cut cancer deaths. by a quarter, ease the strain on the NHS, and “protect our children, and we should take it.”
He also pledged to bring forward measures to restrict the availability of vapes to children with officials set to examine everything from flavours to packaging.
Sunak suggested that statics show that one in five children has used a vape which is “shocking and wrong.”
“We must act before it becomes endemic,” he said.
In a series of posts on X, Sunak outlined his plans to create a “smoke free generation.”
“We know more than four in five smokers start before the age of 20,” he explained.
“We need to stop the start.
“Meanwhile as any parent or teacher knows the rise in vaping among children is a worrying trend.”
Sunak said the government would not criminalise smoking – “nor will anyone who can legally be sold cigarettes today be prevented from doing so in the future”.