A 14 year-old in England will never be able to legally smoke under proposals revealed by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
The proposed law, to be voted on by Parliament, will annually raise the age of legal purchase of cigarettes from the current 18-years by one additional year every 12 months.
It will see England follow in the footsteps of New Zealand which last year effectively made the sale cigarettes illegal to people born after 2009.
Announcing the policy during his speech at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester Mr Sunak acknowledged it had been a difficult decision to support the policy.
But he added it was the right decision for the nation’s children to ‘break the cycle’ of smoking addiction.
‘If we are to do the right thing for our kids we must try and stop teenagers taking up cigarettes in the first place,’ he said.
A 14 year-old in England will never be able to legally smoke under proposals revealed by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak
‘Four in five smokers have started by the time 20, later the vast majority try to quit but fail because they are addicted.
‘I propose we raise the smoking age by one year every year. That means a 14-year-old today will never legally be sold a cigarette meaning they and their generation will grow up smoke free,’ he said to massive applause from the audience.
Last year a major review led by Dr Javed Khan backed England following in the footsteps of New Zealand.
Dr Khan recommended ‘increasing the age of sale from 18, by one year, every year until no-one can buy a tobacco product in this country’.
In his Government-commissioned report published in June 2022, Dr Khan said that without urgent action, England would miss the 2030 target by at least seven years, with the poorest areas not meeting it until 2044.
He put the annual cost to society of smoking at about £17billion – £2.4billion to the NHS alone.
The legal age for buying cigarettes and other tobacco products in England and Wales is 18, having been raised from 16 in 2007 by the previous Labour government.