Legal smoking age could be raised to 21 under 'radical' health plans

21 May 2022, 16:43

The legal smoking age could be increased to 21, reports say.
The legal smoking age could be increased to 21, reports say. Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

The legal smoking age could be raised to 21 under "radical" plans to make less than five per cent of Britons smokers by 2030.

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The Health Secretary Sajid Javid has reportedly commissioned an independent review into the legal smoking age in the UK, with new taxes also set to be slapped on tobacco company profits.

The legal age, which is currently 18 in the UK, could be hiked to 21 in a bid to cut the number of smokers in Britain, the Telegraph reports.

The Government set a target in 2019 of becoming smoke-free by 2030. This is measured as just five per cent of adults smoking, not total eradication.

The legal age for buying tobacco products is currently 18, having been raised from 16 in 2007.

It's understood the NHS could also be urged to promote e-cigarettes and vapes to smokers - especially pregnant mothers -as most studies have shown that e-cigarettes cause less harm than cigarettes.

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However, long-term impacts of vaping remain unclear.

The forthcoming report was written by former charity boss Javed Khan, who reportedly supports a "polluter pays" philosophy that would see tobacco firms effectively funding the cost of anti-smoking policies.

A source close to Mr Khan, a former CEO of Barnardo's, told The Telegraph: "The stance he’s taken in the meetings I’ve had with him has been quite radical."

Mr Javid himself quit smoking when he took over from Matt Hancock as Health Secretary last year.

He supports major reforms to the Government's tobacco policy, including stricter controls on sale.

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It's understood the review will help Mr Javid make his case to increase the legal age to 21 - and get the smoking reforms passed in the Commons.

Another source involved in the report said: “Sajid Javid is interested in health inequality and he is interested in tackling public health issues, but the Government is in hock to right-wing MPs.

“On tobacco, they are still nervous about some kind of nanny state attack.”

But with the Government considering 18 as the age of legal responsibility, a Downing Street source told the newspaper that Boris Johnson may not feel it should be raised.

The report's recommendations will be consulted on before the Government announces any new policy.