Raise legal age for smoking by one year every year, review recommends

9 June 2022, 09:21 | Updated: 9 June 2022, 09:49

Ministers want England to be smoke free by 2030
Ministers want England to be smoke free by 2030. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

The age at which people can buy cigarettes should go up by a year every year, until the point where no-one can buy them, a government commission review has suggested.

Ministers want England to be smoke free by 2030.

The plans would create a "smokefree generation", with people under a certain age unable to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products at all.

The recommendation comes from a delayed review by Dr Javed Khan, the former chief executive of Barnardo's, which was released this morning.

Dr Khan, who led the review, said: ""Without immediate and sustained action, England will miss the smoke-free target by many years and most likely decades.

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"A smoke-free society should be a social norm - but to achieve this, we must do more to stop people taking up smoking, help those who already smoke and support those who are disproportionately impacted by smoking. My holistic set of recommendations for government will deliver this, whilst saving lives, saving money and addressing the health disparities associated with smoking.

"My proposals are not just a plan for this Government, but successive governments too. To truly achieve a smoke-free society in our great country, we need to commit to making smoking obsolete, once and for all.

"It was a privilege to work on this review and get the opportunity to improve the health of people across the country, and I look forward to seeing the government's response."

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The "landmark review" was commissioned by Health Secretary Sajid Javid earlier this year.

Sajid Javid said in speech on health reform on 8 March: "Richer communities get healthier – and healthier communities get richer. Healthy people work more, learn more and earn more."

The report recommends:

  • Increasing the age of sale from 18 by one year each year until no-one in England can buy tobacco products
  • Increased investment of £125m per year in smoke free policies, including £70m per year in services helping people to quit
  • Promotion of vaping as a tool to help people quit
  • Improve prevention of smoking strategies in the NHS to reduce the £2.4bn smoking costs the NHS each year

"A smokefree society should be the social norm, which is why there should be even more smokefree places (in hospitality and outdoor places where children congregate), where people cannot smoke," the review says.

Cancer research UK said the review “paves the way for the UK Government to take action on tobacco, the leading cause of smoking and death in England.

“By acting on the review, we can protect against tobacco’s harmful effects and help make Smokefree2030 a reality for the nation”.