UK PM Rishi Sunak Proposes Bold Measure to Curb Smoking Among Younger Generations
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has unveiled a groundbreaking proposal at the Conservative Party’s annual conference in Manchester, aiming to implement one of the world’s most robust anti-smoking measures. Sunak’s plan, if enacted into law, would ban younger generations from ever purchasing cigarettes, setting the stage for Britain to become a global leader in anti-smoking initiatives.
Under this ambitious proposal, the legal age for purchasing cigarettes would be incrementally raised by one year each year. This strategy is expected to result in a new generation growing up entirely smoke-free. In effect, a 14-year-old today would never legally be allowed to buy cigarettes, marking a significant shift in the country’s approach to tobacco consumption and improving public health.
In addition to addressing traditional tobacco products, Sunak is also targeting vaping among young people. The government plans to restrict the availability of vapes to children and reevaluate the packaging, flavors, and marketing of these products to ensure they are no longer appealing to the younger demographic.
The potential impact of this smoking ban is substantial. It could lead to a significant reduction in smoking rates among young people, possibly phasing out smoking entirely for the younger generation by 2040. This move aligns with the UK’s broader goal of achieving a smoke-free society by 2030.
While this proposal is pioneering, it’s not without precedent. New Zealand implemented a similar law last year, making it illegal to sell cigarettes to individuals born after 2008, with the ban taking effect in 2027.
The economic repercussions of this proposal are already being felt, as shares of Imperial Brands, the largest cigarette seller in the UK, experienced a 1.2% decline in London. British American Tobacco, with a more diversified market portfolio, also saw a 0.7% decrease.
Smoking remains a major public health concern in the UK, with associated healthcare costs estimated at £17 billion ($20.6 billion) annually. Rishi Sunak’s proposed measures aim to significantly reduce these costs while potentially reducing cancer-related deaths by 25% if smoking rates decline.
This move comes in response to a government-commissioned report highlighting a concerning trend in smoking among 18- to 24-year-olds during the COVID-19 pandemic. The report emphasized the disproportionate economic burden of smoking on individuals in economically deprived areas, with some spending over 10% of their income on cigarettes.
Rishi Sunak’s vision for a smoke-free future focuses on preventing young people from taking up smoking in the first place. By raising the age at which cigarettes can be purchased year by year, he aims to protect the health and well-being of future generations, emphasizing that “there is no safe level of smoking.”