Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced plans to implement a phased smoking ban that would prevent people turning fourteen or younger this year from being able to buy cigarettes.
Tobacco is responsible for 64,000 preventable deaths in England, according to a policy paper published by the government on Thursday. It increases the chances of stillbirth, can trigger asthma in children, and is the cause of a quarter of UK cancer deaths.
The effects of smoking puts significant pressure on the NHS, and disproportionately affects those in areas of deprivation. Annually, smoking costs the NHS and social care £3 billion.
The paper was in response to the independent Khan review launched by the government in 2022. In addition to the new age limit, the government’s plan to create the ‘first smokefree generation’ includes doubling the budget for stop smoking services.
The phased ban does not include the sale of vapes, which the government believes are ‘vital’ to reducing smoking rates, contributing to an 50,000 to 70,000 smoking quits per year. However, they have said they are looking at measures to reduce the appeal and availability of vapes to children, after one fifth of children tried vaping between March and April of this year.
President of the RCPCH Dr Camilla Kingdon welcomes the change:
‘Any measures taken to reduce smoking uptake in children and young people is a welcome and positive step forward.
‘Just as bold action is needed to tackle smoking, so too is it needed to tackle the rise in youth vaping. We’re pleased to see that government is heeding our warnings on disposable vapes and is now actively considering a ban, as well as wider restrictions on flavours, packaging and advertisement.’
Though many organisations are welcoming the new policy, director of policy at The King’s Fund Sally Warren, has said they would now like to see this kind of long-term clarity across other areas of health policy.
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