Increase smoking age by one year every year, says Rishi Sunak

New Zealand bans cigarettes for future generations

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is considering anti-smoking measures that would effectively ban the next generation from buying cigarettes. 

Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference, Sunak said he wants to give MPs a free vote on raising the smoking age year by year to eventually ban the habit.

The proposal is reminiscent of measures introduced in New Zealand, which involved gradually increasing the legal smoking age so tobacco would end up never being sold to anyone born on or after 1 January 2009.

He said unlike other products, there is no safe level of smoking, adding that the measure would ‘save more lives than any other decision we take’.

This comes as the impact of vaping is thrown into question after an increase in use among young people.

A team at Manchester Metropolitan University will now compare health markers in those who use e-cigarettes and those who do not.

Taking around 18 months to complete, markers will include the quality of blood vessels in both the arm and neck. Researchers will also look at their elasticity, which is an indicator of vascular health.

Very little research has been done on the long-term impacts of vaping on health due to them being relatively new on the market.

‘Bold and ambitious’

Following Sunak’s announcement, the British Dental Association (BDA) says the government must now show the same ambition across public health.

Dental leaders argue that ministers must show they are serious about prevention across all areas of healthcare. The ongoing access crisis in NHS dentistry is fuelling widening inequalities, it says, with unmet need for NHS dentistry in 2023 estimated at 1 in 4 of England’s adult population.

Mick Armstrong, chair of the British Dental Association’s Health and Science Committee, said: ‘Government seems willing to be bold and ambitious on tobacco but appears to be waving a white flag on the wider prevention agenda.

‘Deep seated health inequalities in this country are widening with every passing day. We need real commitment to close that gap.’

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