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Smoking could be permanently banned for anyone born after a certain date under plans being considered by Rishi Sunak, it has emerged.
The Prime Minister has reportedly been presented with plans for the UK to echo a policy pioneered by New Zealand, which has promised to ban smoking for anyone born in 2009 or later.
Multiple senior Government sources refused to rule out the idea of a sweeping ban which would see the legal smoking age progressively rise from the end of this decade, eventually making tobacco totally illegal.
Mr Sunak is planning to make a number of wide-ranging policy interventions over the rest of this year after rolling back environmental deadlines in a move he presented as a long-term perspective on the public good.
He tweeted on Friday: “I’m going to make big decisions in the long-term interests of our country – even if they’re difficult. That’s how we’ll deliver change and build a better future for our children. This week was just the start.”
The Guardian reported that one policy under consideration was the smoking ban which would apply permanently to anyone who is currently younger than teenage years.
The idea has not yet been presented to the Department for Health, i understands, suggesting it is still at an early stage of development.
A Government spokesperson said: “Smoking is a deadly habit – it kills tens of thousands of people each year and places a huge burden on the NHS and the economy.
“We want to encourage more people to quit and meet our ambition to be smoke-free by 2030, which is why we have already taken steps to reduce smoking rates. This includes providing one million smokers in England with free vape kits via our world-first ‘swap to stop’ scheme, launching a voucher scheme to incentivise pregnant women to quit, and consulting on mandatory cigarette pack inserts.”
The Government is currently running a consultation on vaping and is expected to outlaw single-use vapes in order to discourage nicotine uptake among young people, while encouraging the use of vapes for those trying to quit smoking.
Deborah Arnott, the head of anti-smoking pressure group ASH, said: “Smoking is highly addictive and only one in three smokers quit before they die, taking on average 30 attempts before they succeed. If the Government is serious about making England smoke-free by 2030, it needs to reduce youth uptake as well as help adult smokers quit. ASH strongly supports raising the age of sale, it’s worked well in the US and is popular with the public.”
Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ pressure group Forest said: “Prohibiting the sale of cigarettes to future generations of adults won’t stop people smoking.”
“It will simply drive the sale of cigarettes underground and into the hands of criminal gangs.
“Treating adults like children by denying them the right to buy cigarettes legally would take the nanny state to another level.”