MPs call for raising legal age for buying cigarettes to stop 'tobacco epidemic'

9 June 2021, 09:09

The recommended changes to smoking regulations would help the government reach its smoke-free target by 2030.
The recommended changes to smoking regulations would help the government reach its smoke-free target by 2030. Picture: PA

By Emma Soteriou

MPs have called for a consultation to raise the age of buying cigarettes from 18 to 21, in a bid to end the "tobacco epidemic" by 2030.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health recommended the increase in age in an attempt to implement tougher smoking regulations.

This would help stop young people from becoming smokers and aid current smokers in quitting, they said.

The recommendation - which has been backed by multiple health charities - would also see an amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill, labelled "polluter pays", which would force manufacturers to pay to deliver the end of smoking.

In the report, it was revealed that more people were likely to have died in 2020 and 2021 from smoking than Covid-19.

MPs warned that the only way to build back "better and fairer" from the pandemic is to put an end to smoking, saying it was more important now to commit to the actions needed to secure a Smokefree 2030.

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The report suggested widespread public support for the recommendations, with more than three-quarters of the public supporting the government's 2030 ambition.

Increasing the age of sale from 18 to 21 was supported by 63 per cent and making tobacco manufacturers pay a levy or licence fee was supported by 77 per cent.

There was also a call for targeted investment to provide support and help smokers quit in regions and communities where smoking does the most damage.

Alison Cook, director of external affairs at Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, said: "Smoking still accounts for 35 per cent of all respiratory deaths in England each year and it is still the leading cause of preventable lung diseases such as lung cancer and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

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"We welcome the recommendations in this report, which include targeted support for people to successfully quit this deadly addiction.

"If the government is serious about reaching its own target of becoming smoke-free by 2030, it needs to do much more by urgently providing sustainable funding for the delivery of stop smoking services across the NHS and in the community, as a broad offer is highly effective in supporting people to quit.

"Without action now, we will continue to see thousands of people die every year as a result of preventable lung diseases linked to smoking."

This comes after five more councils across England joined Oxfordshire in pledging to go smoke-free by 2025.

Smoking will be banned outside restaurants and offices and there will also be a crackdown on the selling of illicit tobacco.