UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has proposed a new plan to tackle smoking among young people by gradually raising the legal age to buy cigarettes in England each year. The aim is to eventually make it illegal for the entire population to purchase cigarettes. The proposal, however, would only apply in England and not in other parts of the UK such as Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.
The government’s objective is to break the cycle of young people taking up smoking by phasing out smoking among teenagers. Research has shown that the majority of smokers start smoking by the time they are 20 years old. By implementing this plan, those who turn 14 this year and younger will be prevented from legally buying cigarettes in England. It is important to note that smoking itself will not be criminalized.
The number of smokers in the UK has been declining, but still, around 6.4 million people are smokers. To further reduce smoking rates, the legal age for purchasing tobacco was raised from 16 to 18 in 2007, resulting in a 30% decrease in smoking among 16 and 17-year-olds.
Health experts have shown support for this new plan, citing similar measures that have been implemented in New Zealand. Gradually increasing the legal smoking age has proven effective in discouraging young people from taking up smoking.
Additionally, measures will also be taken to restrict the availability of vapes to children. Youth vaping has tripled over the past three years, prompting concerns about nicotine addiction among young people. Options being considered include restricting flavored vapes and regulating packaging and store displays to make them less appealing to young people.
Following the announcement of the proposed plan, shares in tobacco firms, such as British American Tobacco and Imperial Brands, experienced a decline. This indicates the potential impact it could have on the tobacco industry.
Overall, the government’s proposal to gradually raise the legal smoking age and restrict access to vapes is aimed at preventing young people from taking up harmful habits and improving public health in the UK.
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