Prime Minister- Rishi Sunak: Smoking age should rise from 18, by one year every year

The Prime Minister says that- “ The age at which people can buy cigarettes and tobacco in England should rise by one year every year so that eventually no one can buy them”.

In recent years, the global community has made significant strides in promoting public health and well-being. As part of this ongoing effort, policymakers around the world are constantly exploring new ways to discourage harmful habits and improve the overall health of their citizens. One such proposal, put forth by Rishi Sunak, involves gradually raising the legal smoking age. This bold initiative, to increase the smoking age by one year annually, carries the potential to save countless lives and reduce the burden on healthcare systems. In this article, we will explore the rationale behind this proposal and its potential impact on public health.

Speaking passionately at the Conservative Party conference, Mr. Sunak asserted that taking decisive action against the leading cause of preventable ill-health was imperative. He highlighted the grave consequences associated with smoking, including heightened risks of strokes, heart disease, dementia, and stillbirth, not to mention its alarming contribution to one in four cancer-related deaths. With conviction, he emphasized, “There is no safe level of smoking.”

He also said this at a conference:

“If we want to do the right thing for our kids, we must try and stop teenagers taking up cigarettes in the first place. “Because without a significant change, thousands of children will start smoking in the coming years and have their lives cut short,” he said. “Four in five smokers have started by the time they’re 20. Later, the vast majority try to quit, but many fail because they’re addicted.” (also here).

In 2007, the British government raised the legal age for tobacco sales from 16 to 18, a move that proved successful in decreasing smoking rates among 16 and 17-year-olds by 30%, as confirmed by Sunak’s office.

Health experts have enthusiastically embraced the Prime Minister’s proposal to incrementally raise the legal smoking age. This approach finds resonance internationally, with New Zealand approving a similar measure just last year. The global consensus on this strategy underlines its effectiveness in curbing tobacco use among young adults and emphasizes the importance of its implementation in the broader context of public health.

In addition to raising the legal smoking age, Sunak affirmed his government’s commitment to implement stringent measures aimed at curbing the accessibility of vapes, or e-cigarettes, to children. Presently, it is illegal to sell vapes to individuals under 18 in the U.K. However, alarming statistics reveal that youth vaping has tripled in the past three years, surpassing the number of young smokers.

To address this concerning trend, officials are exploring various options, including limiting the availability of flavored vapes and regulating packaging and store displays to make these products less enticing to young people.

The impact of these measures was immediate, as shares in tobacco companies experienced a notable decline following Wednesday’s announcement. British American Tobacco, the parent company of Dunhill and Lucky Strike, witnessed its shares drop by 1 percent immediately after the announcement, while Imperial Brands experienced a 2.4 percent decrease in share value after Sunak’s speech. This market response underscores the significance of these policy changes in the battle against youth smoking and vaping, signaling a shift towards prioritizing public health over corporate interests.

Published by HOLR Magazine.