Ministers hand out £70 million per year to get hundreds of thousands to quit smoking after tobacco ban announced

8 November 2023, 00:01

The government has announced £70 million for projects to help people stop smoking
The government has announced £70 million for projects to help people stop smoking. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

The government will hand out £70 million per year to projects to help people stop smoking, after it announced a tobacco ban in the King's Speech on Tuesday.

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Ministers said the funding is double the money currently available for stop-smoking services, and should help 360,000 people ditch cigarettes.

Meanwhile more than 12,000 responses have been sent in to the government's consultation on plans to create a smoke-free generation and crack down on youth vaping

King Charles confirmed the Tobacco and Vapes Bill during his first King's Speech to Parliament on Tuesday, which means children born after 2009 will never legally be able to purchase tobacco in England.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: “Smoking kills tens of thousands of people every single year. That’s why we’re working at pace to introduce this historic legislation which will protect the next generation, prevent our children from starting smoking, and improve our nation’s health.

“We’ve also announced funding allocations for every single area in England to support local stop smoking services and support, which are proven to significantly improve someone’s chances of quitting for good. The increased new investment of £70 million per year will double current funding for such services and will help save countless lives up and down the country.”

Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England, said: "Smoking is highly addictive and causes multiple diseases including heart disease, cancers, dementia and stroke.

“The response to the consultation shows people care strongly about this issue. If passed, the Bill will help ensure the next generation is smoke free and the additional funding will help current smokers stop, preventing major future harm.”

Read more: King's Speech at a glance: Smoking ban, crime crackdown and new football regulator

Read more: Charles announces crackdown on 'the scourge of unlicensed pedicabs in London' during King's speech

King Charles announced the ban during his first King's Speech to Parliament.
King Charles announced the ban during his first King's Speech to Parliament. Picture: Alamy

Speaking to Parliament, Charles said: “My Government will introduce legislation to create a smoke-free generation by restricting the sale of tobacco so that children currently aged fourteen or younger can never be sold cigarettes, and restricting the sale and marketing of e-cigarettes to children.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the move would mean “a 14-year-old today will never legally be sold a cigarette and that they and their generation can grow up smoke-free”.

This policy would mean that anyone born on or after 1 January 2009 would never be able to purchase tobacco in a bid to phase out the products for the next generation.

Mr Sunak has said that smoking will not be criminalised under the ban.

It is hoped the Bill will see up to 1.7 million fewer people smoking by 2075, and potentially even wipe out smoking completely among young people by 2040.

Mr Sunak first unveiled the plans to create a smoke-free generation at the Tory conference in September.

“If we want to change the direction of our country and build a better future for our children, that means tackling the single biggest entirely preventable cause of ill health, disability and death: smoking,” it was said.

“The Bill will implement the hard but necessary decisions to get the country on the right path for the future.

“There is no more addictive product that is legally sold in our shops than tobacco.

“And four fifths of smokers start before the age of 20 which is why stopping the start of addiction is vital.”

The age ban will be raised by one year every year for people aged 14.
The age ban will be raised by one year every year for people aged 14. Picture: Getty

However, Mr Sunak has faced backlash over the plans, with some Tory MPs reportedly gearing up to vote against the Bill if a free vote is issued in the House of Commons.

Today’s Bill will also aim to crack down on vaping and e-cigarettes among the younger generation.

“Smoking rates fall when leaders take decisive action: that’s why we support the UK Government’s commitment to changing the age of sale of tobacco announced in the King’s Speech today,” Cancer Research UK's chief executive Michelle Mitchell said.

“The Government should move to bring this legislation before Parliament in early 2024, and we call on MPs from all parties to support it.

“I’ve never met anyone who wants their child to take up smoking. Cancer Research UK estimates that there are around 885,000 16–24-year-olds smoking in the UK today.”

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