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MPs: ‘Raise the legal smoking age to hit 2030 target’

June 21, 2021

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MPs in the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Smoking and Health have warned the Government that must make smoking ‘obsolete’ if it to achieve its goal of “building back better and fairer from the pandemic”.

The cross-party group of MPs and peers urge the government to follow the recommendations contained within its latest report. These include funding for tobacco control programmes to be secured through a so-called ‘polluter pays’ amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill, which – the politicians say would force manufacturers to “pay to deliver the end of smoking”.

The parliamentarians also call for targeted investment to provide additional support to help smokers quit in regions and communities where smoking does most damage. This, they say, includes those in routine and manual jobs and the unemployed; living in social housing; with a mental health condition; and pregnant smokers.

Yet, perhaps the most eye-catching recommendation is for the legal age of purchasing tobacco to rise from 18 to 21. Tougher tobacco regulations to protect children and young people from becoming smokers and help smokers quit, such as putting health warnings on cigarettes and raising the age of sale to 21.

Bob Blackman, chairman of the APPG and Conservative MP for Harrow East said: “Our report sets out measures which will put us on track to achieve the Government’s ambition to end smoking by 2030, but they can’t be delivered without funding.”

The recommendations did not receive support from all corners, however. Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ group Forest, decried the measures as “insulting the intelligence” of young people.

“If you can vote at 18 you should be allowed to buy tobacco at 18. In the eyes of the law you are an adult and once an adult you should be treated like one.

“Instead of prohibiting the sale of tobacco to people aged 18 to 20, the government should continue to educate teenagers about the health risks of smoking and encourage adults of all ages to take personal responsibility for their health.

“If, however, an adult chooses to smoke the government must respect that choice.”