Majority of public behind ‘smokefree generation’ plans, says government

Around 25,000 people have responded to the government’s consultation on creating a ‘smokefree generation’, with the majority of the public backing the plans, according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

The smoking age would be raised year by year in an attempt to phase it out altogether.

In what the government describes as the ‘most significant public health intervention in a generation’, the sale of tobacco would be gradually phased out by raising the legal smoking age year-by-year until it applies to the whole population. It would mean that anyone aged 14 or younger this year would be unable to ever legally buy cigarettes in England (

The consultation, which closes today, has seen responses from public health experts, healthcare professionals, teachers and young people, the government says, with the official response to be published ahead of the forthcoming tobacco and vapes bill’s introduction to Parliament. The plans are based on similar legislation in New Zealand, which was due to be introduced next July but was scrapped last month by the country’s new government.

Smoking remains the UK’s biggest preventable killer, causing around 64,000 deaths a year in England alone. ‘No other consumer product kills up to two-thirds of its users and the plans will save tens of thousands of lives and save the NHS billions of pounds,’ DHSC states. Critics of the plan, however, have argued that it is ‘unworkable’ and would boost the black market, while the Express reports that ‘as many as 50’ Conservative MPs are planning to vote against it.

The government is also introducing measures to make vapes less easily available – and appealing – to children, while ‘ensuring they remain available as a quit tool for smokers’ ( Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting told the Telegraph that vapes could be prescription-only under a Labour government.

‘Smoking is the biggest preventable killer in the UK, and that’s why we need to push ahead at pace with our plans to protect today’s children, and create the first smokefree generation while cracking down on youth vaping,’ said public health minister Andrea Leadsom. ‘We are taking the long-term health decisions needed to safeguard the next generation from the harms of smoking and risk of addiction.’

‘With the overwhelming support of the public the UK has picked up the baton to become the first country in the world to create a smokefree generation,’ added ASH chief executive Deborah Arnott. ‘This will herald the start of a new era in tobacco control, where the end of the smoking is finally in sight.’

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