In an interview with the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg, Wes Streeting said: “We’re going to consult on a whole package of measures to tackle smoking in this country. The Government is not on course to meet its 2030 target.
“And one of the things that were recommended to the Government in one of their reviews was phasing out the sale of cigarettes altogether over time. We’ll be consulting on that, and a whole range of other measures.”
Streeting is not the first figure to suggest the legal age for buying cigarettes should be raised.
An independent review published in June 2022 by Dr Javed Khan OBE recommended “increasing the age of sale from 18, by one year every year until no one can buy a tobacco product in this country”.
If introduced in England, it wouldn’t the be the first time such a law had been introduced in a major economy.
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A similar policy was introduced in New Zealand whereby no-one born after January 1 2009 could buy tobacco.
In a statement at the time of introduction, associate minister of health Dr Ayesha Verrall said: “There is no good reason to allow a product to be sold that kills half the people that use it.
“And I can tell you that we will end this in the future, as we pass this legislation.”
Mr Streeting reflected on these policies, adding: “The New Zealand government are doing it, we want to see how that works
“I’m genuinely curious, if we’re going to get the NHS back on track we also need to focus on public health”
Commenting on Labour’s plans Deborah Arnoot, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said: “
“Labour is absolutely right: to get the NHS back on track we have to focus on improving public health. Tackling smoking is key as it is still a leading cause of premature death and disease, responsible for half the difference in life expectancy between rich and poor.” “ASH supports a consultation on raising the age of sale, but also on how it should be achieved.
“The New Zealand option is one model, but another, easier to implement and widely supported by the majority of the public and tobacco retailers too is to raise the age of sale to 21. Both options should be consulted on.”
The health negatives of smoking are well-known with the habit being one of the world’s leading causes of cancer. Smoking is also linked to a significantly increased risk of respiratory illness and other malodorous ramifications
Dr Khan’s report recommended at least £125million per year of extra investment in these smoke-free policies. The Government was meant to update its Tobacco Control Plan in response to Dr Khan’s report. However, that update is yet to present itself.
On their response, the Government has said: “The Department is currently considering the recommendations made in ‘The Khan review: making smoking obsolete’, including those related to vaping.”
They added that the new plan will be “published in due course”.
As and when the plan is updated, the hope is that it will build on the progress made by multiple governments over the past 30 years.
Under Labour, the famous smoking ban was introduced.
This prohibited the smoking of cigarettes in pubs, restaurants, nightclubs, the majority of workplaces, and work vehicles anywhere in the UK.