Legal age to buy tobacco should be raised to make smoking obsolete – review

Almost six million people in England smoke, and tobacco is the single biggest cause of preventable illness and death, the Department of Health said.

09 June 2022

The minimum age at which people can buy a tobacco product in England should be raised by a year annually until the point where no-one can buy them, a review has recommended.

The legal age of sale should rise from 18, at which it currently stands, the independent review by Dr Javed Khan said.

Among the 15 recommended interventions, Dr Khan said there should be an extra £125 million per year invested in smoke-free policies, with a further £70 million per year ringfenced for stop smoking services.

The review also stated that vapes should be promoted as an effective “swap to stop” tool to help people quit smoking, and that there should be improved prevention in the NHS offering smokers advice and support to quit.

Dr Khan, former chief executive of children’s charity Barnardo’s, also called for a tobacco licence for retailers to limit the availability of tobacco across the country, a rethink of the way cigarette sticks and packets look to reduce their appeal, and a mass media campaign to encourage smokers to quit.

Almost six million people in England smoke, and tobacco remains the single biggest cause of preventable illness and death, the Department of Health said.

Almost six million people in England smoke, and tobacco remains the single biggest cause of preventable illness and death (Martin Rickett/PA)
Almost six million people in England smoke (Martin Rickett/PA)

Dr Khan said: “In this review I have looked at our current smoke-free initiatives, along with the very best practice from around the world. I would like to thank the many valued voices that have made key contributions towards shaping this bold and ambitious report.

“Without immediate and sustained action, England will miss the smoke-free target by many years and most likely decades.

“A smoke-free society should be a social norm – but to achieve this, we must do more to stop people taking up smoking, help those who already smoke and support those who are disproportionately impacted by smoking. My holistic set of recommendations for government will deliver this, whilst saving lives, saving money and addressing the health disparities associated with smoking.

“My proposals are not just a plan for this government, but successive governments too. To truly achieve a smoke-free society in our great country, we need to commit to making smoking obsolete, once and for all.

“It was a privilege to work on this review and get the opportunity to improve the health of people across the country, and I look forward to seeing the government’s response.”

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