In the latest move aimed at enhancing public health, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced plans for a progressive smoking ban in the United Kingdom. Under this initiative, the legal smoking age will be incrementally raised by one year each year, ensuring that individuals born after a certain date will never legally purchase cigarettes.

This announcement, made during the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, marks a significant leap forward in the country’s quest for better health outcomes. The Prime Minister emphasised the necessity of this plan, noting:

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, and they wish they had never taken up the habit in the first place.

Rishi Sunak, The Prime Minister

He went on to highlight the importance of breaking the cycle of smoking initiation, as it is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the UK.

The proposed smoking ban seeks to address this issue by gradually increasing the legal smoking age, rendering it impossible for future generations to buy cigarettes legally. If enacted, individuals aged 14 and under today will never have the opportunity to purchase cigarettes.

Chancellor Sunak emphasised that these measures do not intend to infringe upon the rights of current smokers. He stated, “The ban would not take away the right to smoke from current smokers,” highlighting the importance of personal choice in this matter.

The introduction of a smoking ban follows a similar approach implemented in New Zealand, where the sale of tobacco to anyone born on or after a specific date was prohibited. While specific details of the UK plan are yet to be released, the overarching strategy is to continuously raise the legal smoking age to discourage new smokers from entering the market.

The Prime Minister, in his address, explained that implementing stricter anti-smoking measures would not only “cut cancer deaths by a quarter” but also “significantly reduce long-term pressure” on the National Health Service (NHS). In 2019, the government set a goal for England to become smoke-free by 2030, aiming for only 5 percent of the population to smoke by then. Dr. Javed Khan’s comprehensive review highlighted the urgency of further action, estimating that without intervention, the target would not be met until 2044 and costing the NHS alone £2.4 billion annually.

Reaction to the proposed ban has been mixed. Smokers-rights group Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco (Forest) has criticised the measures, calling them “desperate” and a “creeping prohibition” on smoking. However, proponents argue that this is a significant step towards creating a healthier society, reducing the burden on the healthcare system, and protecting future generations from the harms of smoking.

Former Prime Minister Liz Truss has voiced her opposition to the ban, stating that it is time for the Conservative Party to “stop banning things.” The debate surrounding the smoking ban is expected to intensify as it moves forward through the legislative process.

Editor at Workplace Wellbeing Professional | Website | + posts

Joanne is the editor for Workplace Wellbeing Professional and has a keen interest in promoting the safety and wellbeing of the global workforce. After earning a bachelor's degree in English literature and media studies, she taught English in China and Vietnam for two years. Before joining Work Well Pro, Joanne worked as a marketing coordinator for luxury property, where her responsibilities included blog writing, photography, and video creation.