Prime Minister pledges to create a ‘smoke-free’ generation

At the tory party conference Rishi Sunak promised to raise the legal age for buying cigarettes by one every year to protect the nation’s health.

Yesterday, UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, unveiled his plans to phase out smoking at the tory party conference, which was held in Manchester, as he told the BBC there was ‘no safe level of smoking’ in this country.

orange cigarette butts on black surface

Mr Sunak said the proposed legislation 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.’

Following this, the Prime Minister said the changes will be subject to a vote in parliament, but this will be a free vote, as was the ban on smoking in public spaces and raising the smoking age to 18.

Against this backdrop, Mr Sunak also claimed his pledge will also apply to the sale of vapes, which have caused a huge stir since it was revealed small off licenses were selling the products to underage minors.

The Prime Minister said: ‘As any parent or teacher knows, one of the most worrying trends right now is the rise in vaping amongst children – one in five children have used vapes. We must act before it becomes endemic.

‘So we will also bring forward measures to restrict the availability of vapes to our children, looking at flavours, packaging displays and disposable vapes.’

However, critics of the new policy change have claimed the new legislation could lead to the creation of a ‘black market’. According to figures from the Office of National Statistics, one in nine 18 to 24-year-olds smoke.

The Labour government have claimed they would ‘not play with public health’ and would lend the Prime Minister the votes to successfully pass the law, but the plan is likely to meet opposition from the libertarian wing of the Conservative party.

At the beginning of this week, Liz Truss commented on the tory party conference and stated they government need to ‘stop banning things’. It is understood she will not vote in favour of the new law.

In addition, Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ group Forest, said: ‘Raising the age of sale of tobacco is creeping prohibition, but it won’t stop young people smoking because prohibition doesn’t work.

‘Anyone who wants to smoke will buy tobacco abroad or from illicit sources.

‘Future generations of adults who are considered old enough to vote, pay taxes, drive a car and drink alcohol are going to be treated like children and denied the right to buy a product that can be purchased legally by people a year older than them.’

In contrast, Michelle Mitchell from Cancer Research UK, said the announcement was a ‘critical step’.

She said if the law is implemented ‘the Prime Minister will deserve credit for putting the health of UK citizens ahead of the interests of the tobacco lobby.’

As it stands, smoking increases the risk of strokes, heart disease, dementia and stillbirth as well as causing one in four deaths from cancer. Rates of smoking have been decreasing since the 1970s, but there are still more than five million smokers in England and six million across the entire UK.

Image: Pawel Czerwinski

More on this topic:

Number of children vaping spikes 50% in a year

Risk of premature birth from smoking doubled previous estimates


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