Rishi Sunak Considers Tough Anti-Smoking Measures

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Bold Move

In a move that could pave the way for one of the world’s strictest anti-smoking initiatives, Chancellor Rishi Sunak is reportedly contemplating measures that could effectively ban cigarettes for the next generation in England.
According to sources within Whitehall, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is considering a bold strategy to combat smoking in the UK. One of the key proposals is to gradually increase the legal age for purchasing and consuming tobacco products. This move aims to make it significantly harder for young people to take up smoking.

Potential Fines for Missed Medical Appointments

In addition to these anti-smoking measures, it is also rumored that Mr. Sunak is revisiting his earlier leadership pledge to impose fines of £10 for individuals who miss GP or hospital appointments. These fines could potentially be reintroduced as part of the government’s broader health policies.

Government’s Response

While Downing Street has not explicitly confirmed Mr. Sunak’s consideration of stricter smoking regulations, they have not denied it either. This suggests that the government is exploring various avenues to reduce smoking rates and improve public health.

A Recommendation from Dr. Javed Khan

Last year, a comprehensive review led by Dr. Javed Khan supported following New Zealand’s approach of gradually increasing the legal smoking age. Dr. Khan’s recommendation included “increasing the age of sale from 18, by one year, every year until no one can buy a tobacco product in this country.” If this recommendation is implemented by 2026, it would mean that anyone aged 15 and under today would never be able to purchase cigarettes legally.

Changing Approaches

Notably, Health Minister Neil O’Brien had previously hinted at a different approach focused on “helping people to quit” rather than enforcing bans. However, it appears that Mr. Sunak is now exploring alternative policy advice to achieve England’s smoke-free target by 2030.

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The Urgency of the Situation

In a government-commissioned report published in June 2022, Dr. Khan emphasized the urgent need for action to meet the 2030 smoke-free target. Without immediate measures, England could miss the goal by at least seven years, with some of the poorest areas not reaching it until 2044. The economic cost of smoking to society, including the NHS, is estimated to be around £17 billion, with £2.4 billion attributed to the NHS alone.

Government’s Stance

A government spokesperson stated, “Smoking is a deadly habit that claims tens of thousands of lives annually and places a tremendous burden on the NHS and the economy.” The government is committed to encouraging more people to quit smoking and achieving the ambition of a smoke-free nation by 2030. They have already taken steps in this direction, such as providing free vape kits to one million smokers through the ‘swap to stop’ scheme, launching a voucher program to incentivize pregnant women to quit, and considering mandatory cigarette pack inserts.

Current Legal Age

As a point of reference, the legal age for buying cigarettes and other tobacco products in England and Wales is currently 18, having been raised from 16 in 2007 under the previous Labour government.

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