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Labour considers New Zealand-style phasing out of tobacco

January 11, 2023

Wes Streeting (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

The sale of cigarettes could be phased out if Labour wins the next general election, shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said, adding that the party would consult on bringing in New Zealand-style gradual ban on tobacco.

Last month, New Zealand announced plans to ban future generations from purchasing tobacco, prohibiting the sale of tobacco to anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 2009.

Streeting said this ‘fresh radical thinking’ could help ease pressures on the NHS. He added that the party is also looking at a range of other measures to make smoking unaffordable and inaccessible. 

“One of the things that was recommended to the government in one of the 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 told BBC

“The New Zealand Government is doing it. We want to see how that works, but I’m genuinely curious.” 

Last June, an independent review led by Dr Javed Khan, commissioned by former health secretary Sajid Javid recommended the legal age of sale for tobacco products in England be raised by one year every year until eventually no one can buy such products.

Streeting’s statement comes a week after Cancer Research UK stated in a report that UK government’ ambitious target of achieving smoke-free status for England by 2030 will be missed by nine years, if the  recent trends continue..  

In 2019 the UK government set a smoke-free ambition to achieve five per cent average adult smoking prevalence by 2030 in England. The projections for England by the charity, which use data to 2021, estimate that the average prevalence in England will reach 5.4 per cent in 2039. 

Previous projection estimates using data up to 2018 suggested that smoking prevalence would reach five per cent in 2037.