UK may ban future generations from buying cigarettes report says

The UK government is considering a radical plan to stop young people from ever smoking cigarettes, according to a report by The Guardian on Friday (Sept 22).

The report, citing government sources, said that British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is looking at anti-smoking measures similar to those introduced by New Zealand last year. These include a ban on selling tobacco to anyone born on or after Jan 1, 2009, effectively creating a smoke-free generation.

The move is part of Sunak’s consumer-focused agenda ahead of the expected election next year, the report said. The government aims to achieve its ambition of being smoke-free by 2030, which means reducing the prevalence of smoking to less than 5% of the population.

“We want to encourage more people to quit and meet our ambition to be smokefree by 2030, which is why we have already taken steps to reduce smoking rates,” a government spokesperson told Reuters in an email.

The spokesperson said that the government has already implemented some measures to help smokers quit, such as offering free vape kits, launching a voucher scheme for pregnant women, and consulting on mandatory cigarette pack inserts that provide information and advice on quitting.

However, the spokesperson declined to comment further on The Guardian’s report, saying that “no decisions have been made”.

The UK has one of the lowest smoking rates in Europe, with about 14% of adults smoking in 2019, according to official statistics. However, smoking still causes more than 75,000 deaths and costs the NHS more than £2 billion a year.

The UK has also been cracking down on e-cigarettes, which are seen as a less harmful alternative to smoking but also pose potential health and environmental risks. In May, the government announced that it would close a loophole that allowed retailers to give free samples of vapes to children. In July, councils in England and Wales called for a ban on single-use vapes by 2024.

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