Smoking could be banned in ‘new plans to phase out smokers’ by Rishi Sunak

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Rishi Sunak is reportedly considering a law which would gradually phase out cigarettes from public sale over the next generation ©Getty Images/iStockphoto

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is in talks to bring in tougher anti-smoking laws to phase out the number of cigarette smokers, it has been reported.

The laws, which would be among the toughest in the world on cigarettes, will effectively stop the next generation from being able to buy them, according to The Guardian. It follows laws enforced in New Zealand aimed at pushing cigarette smoking out of society.

The laws introduced under previous Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s tenure mean cigarettes can only be sold by specially licensed tobacco merchants and have reduced the amount of nicotine in them. The country has also increased the smoking age, banning anyone born after January 1, 2009, from buying cigarettes.

The idea of following in New Zealand’s footsteps has been backed by Dr Javed Khan, who led a major review published on Friday into implementing similar rules. Dr Khan recommended “increasing the age of sale from 18, by one year, every year until no one can buy a tobacco product in this country”.

Introducing the law would mean the legal minimum age for buying tobacco rises with each year, gradually phasing people out from buying them altogether. Smoking-related diseases are currently estimated to cost the NHS £2.4billion each year – with a £17billion estimated cost to society as a whole.

Labour has also previously said it would also consider a similar phasing-out approach, with Shadow Health Minister Wes Streeting claiming in January he was interested in finding out whether there was an “appetite for change”.

Health minister Neil O’Brien however appeared to reject adopting the New Zealand approach in April, when he said the Government’s policy for achieving a smoke-free nation by its 2030 target would focus on “helping people to quit” rather than applying bans.

The age requirement for buying cigarettes in the UK is currently 18, increased from 16 in 2007 by the previous Labour Government. The new minimum coincided with the UK smoking ban on indoor public spaces.

A UK Government spokesman said: “Smoking is a deadly habit, it kills tens of thousands of people each year and places a huge burden on the NHS and the economy. We want to encourage more people to quit and meet our ambition to be smoke-free by 2030, which is why we have already taken steps to reduce smoking rates.

“This includes providing one million smokers in England with free vape kits via our world-first ‘swap to stop’ scheme, launching a voucher scheme to incentivise pregnant women to quit and consulting on mandatory cigarette pack inserts.”

Friday’s news comes after the Prime Minister announced he would be stalling several key environmental policies, including setting back a 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel cars. The changes, he said, marked the start of changes on “a series of long-term decisions” to set a new direction for the UK.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking & Health (Ash), said raising the legally permitted age for tobacco use had delivered results in other countries, citing data that one a third of smokers will successfully quit before they die.

However, the group Freedom Organisation which defends the rights of smokers, said such strict laws would only push cigarette sales into the hands of criminals. Director Simon Clark said: “Treating adults like children by denying them the right to buy cigarettes legally would take the nanny state to another level. Smoking rates have been falling for decades.

“The idea that any government would prioritise tackling smoking at a time when the country faces far more important challenges at home and abroad is frankly obscene. If it is true that the Prime Minister wants to introduce some of the world’s toughest anti-smoking measures, denying millions of adults the freedom to choose, it will be a Conservative Government in name only.”

Source: The Mirror

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