The age at which people in England can legally buy tobacco could rise from 18 by one year every year, according to a “radical” new government review.
A total of 15 recommendations are proposed to aid the UK’s goal of being totally smoke-free by 2030. The plans include the promotion of vapes as an effective ‘swap to stop’ tool to help people stop smoking, as well as improving prevention in the NHS so smokers are offered support to quit at every interaction they have with health services.
Eventually, they hope, these plans would create a “smoke-free generation”, with people under a certain age unable to purchase any type of tobacco product in their lifetime.
The government has been advised to cut online sales of tobacco products and cigarettes, provide tobacco licences for retailers, redesign the appearance of cigarette sticks and packets and launch a mass media campaign to encourage smokers to quit. Currently, nearly 6 million people in the UK smoke and tobacco to this day is the number one biggest cause of preventable illness and death.
Dr. Javed Khan—the former chief executive of the children’s charity Barnardo’s, who led the review—said: “Without immediate and sustained action, England will miss the smoke-free target by many years and most likely decades. A smoke-free society should be a social norm, but to achieve this we must do more to stop people from taking up smoking, help those who already smoke, and support those who are disproportionately impacted by smoking.
“My holistic set of recommendations for the 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 for 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.”
This intriguing proposal is estimated to bring in a total of £700 million per year, which will be put towards smoking-cessation services, publicity campaigns and providing e-cigarettes to smokers on behalf of the NHS.
This isn’t the first time that Britons have been urged to hang up their nicotine habits. The UK’s Health Secretary, Sajid Javid—who quit smoking when he was appointed last year—has previously pleaded with people to harness the “power of families” after his own father quit smoking at his mother’s request.
“When I was around five, my dad was a smoker,” he said during a speech at the Royal College of Physicians back in March. “I remember standing at the top of the staircase and overhearing a conversation my mum was having with my dad, she said ‘if you die, your boys won’t have a dad’ and he never smoked again.
“That kind of intervention is more powerful than most of us can imagine. We’ve got to recognise the power of families to make a difference when it comes to health care—whether it’s stopping drug addiction or dealing with depression, there’s no more powerful motivating force than family.”