If eventually given the go ahead, it will mean kids born after 2009 will never legally be able to buy tobacco.
The Prime Minister has argued he is building ‘a better future for our children’. Health campaigners, experts and charities have all commended the move, described as the ‘biggest public health intervention in a generation’.
Yet the proposals, formally laid out in today’s King’s Speech, have been criticised as ‘ludicrous’ and ‘anti-conservative’ by critics. A smoker’s group labelled the sweeping ban as ‘creeping prohibition’.
In his speech to Parliament, King Charles said that the Government would ‘introduce legislation to create a smoke-free generation by restricting the sale of tobacco… and restricting the sale and marketing of e-cigarettes to children’.
The Government defended tackling ‘the single biggest entirely preventable cause of ill-health’ and wielded statistics claiming that smoking costs the economy £17billion a year through lost productivity and knock-on effects to the NHS.
The Prime Minister has argued he is building ‘a better future for our children’. Health campaigners, experts and charities have all commended the move, described as the ‘biggest public health intervention in a generation’. Rishi Sunak is pictured with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer shortly before the King’s Speech
In his speech to Parliament, King Charles said that the Government would ‘introduce legislation to create a smoke-free generation by restricting the sale of tobacco … and restricting the sale and marketing of e-cigarettes to children’
Laying out its bill, the Government said: ‘If we want to change the direction of our country and build a better future for our children, that means tackling the single biggest entirely preventable cause of ill health, disability and death: smoking.
‘The Bill will implement the hard but necessary decisions to get the country on the right path for the future.
‘There is no more addictive product that is legally sold in our shops than tobacco.
‘And four fifths of smokers start before the age of 20 which is why stopping the start of addiction is vital.’
But the plan, which Mr Sunak first unveiled at the Tory conference in September, has already faced fierce backlash from his own party.
How dangerous is smoking for the heart?
How does tobacco damage the heart?
Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including tar and others that can narrow arteries and damage blood vessels.
While nicotine – a highly addictive toxin found in tobacco – is heavily linked with dangerous increases in heart rate and blood pressure.
Smoking also unleashes poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide, which replaces oxygen in the blood – reducing the availability of oxygen for the heart.
How many people does smoking kill?
Smoking is known to kill more than seven million people across the world each year, including 890,000 from breathing in second-hand smoke.
But many people are unaware that nearly half of those deaths, around three million, are due to heart disease, including heart attacks and strokes.
Former PM Truss — who demanded the Tories to ‘stop taxing and banning things’ — is set to vote against Mr Sunak’s plans when he offers a free vote to MPs on the issue in the House of Commons.
Boris Johnson, meanwhile, slammed the ‘barmy’ proposals last month.
Writing in his Daily Mail column, he added: ‘We are proposing to criminalise yet another variety of ordinary behaviour, with no thought to the consequences for those who have to make it work.’
Former UKIP leader Farage also condemned the ‘stupid’ plan and warned it would just create a ‘black market’.
Mr Sunak today also doubled down on his plans to crack down on youth vaping, with the Government currently considering proposals to ban attractive flavours and packaging and regulating sale displays.
Disposable vapes, a favourite of teenagers, also face being in the firing line.
The proposals — if implemented — would follow in the footsteps of countries including the US and Canada who already restrict flavours.
The Government blames rules inherited from the EU, which it claims has led to a system where vapes are being routinely promoted and marketed to children at scale.
Funding packages of up to £140million to support people quitting smoking will also be made available from April, Mr Sunak announced.
An additional £5million in 2023/24 and £15million until 2028/29 will also be set aside to fund national anti-smoking campaigns explaining the legislative changes, benefits of quitting and support available to smokers.
The Bill will extend to England and Wales but apply only to England.
The Government is ‘working closely’ with the devolved administrations on their own measures.
Charities and experts say the smoking ban — which will effectively raise the age of tobacco sale by one year every year — will save tens of thousands of lives from preventable causes linked to smoking, such as cancer, heart attacks and strokes.
Cancer Research UK’s chief executive Michelle Mitchell said: ‘Smoking rates fall when leaders take decisive action: that’s why we support the UK Government’s commitment to changing the age of sale of tobacco announced in the King’s Speech today.
‘The Government should move to bring this legislation before Parliament in early 2024, and we call on MPs from all parties to support it.
‘I’ve never met anyone who wants their child to take up smoking. Cancer Research UK estimates that there are around 885,000 16–24-year-olds smoking in the UK today.’
Last month, the Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH) welcomed the Government’s proposals to ‘stop the start’ which would raise the age of sale for tobacco by one year every year and tighten restrictions on the sale of vapes to children and young people.
The proposed legislation would also provide extra funding for public health stop smoking services, helping thousands more people quit and crack down on illegal sales.
Greg Fell, president of the Association of Directors of Public Health, said the possibility of a smoke-free UK is now ‘one step closer to becoming a reality’.
He added: ‘We have made great strides since the ban on smoking in public places came into force, but public health services have been hit hard by funding cuts.
‘The extra £70 million being pledged for public health services in these proposals means that as well as protecting children and young people from becoming addicted, we can put much needed resources into providing the best support to help people already addicted to stop.’
According to the research platform Our World In Data, 13.7 per cent of New Zealanders smoked in 2020 compared to 15.4 per cent of Brits and 23 per cent of Americans
Last year a spokesman for the Department of Health said that tackling smoking issues was a ‘priority’ for the office. Here is a list of actions recommended in a landmark Government backed report
Latest ONS figures show the number of people smoking cigarettes in the UK has dropped to a record low. In total 6.4million adults in the UK — or 12.9 per cent — smoked in 2022. This is the lowest number since records began in 2011 and is a drop on the 13.3 per cent reported in 2021
Tests on e-cigarettes confiscated from youngsters found they contained dangerous levels of lead, nickel and chromium. Some were almost ten times above safe limits. Exposure to lead can impair brain development, while the other two metals can trigger blood clotting
Voting on the smoking Bill will be treated as a ‘conscience vote’, it was announced last month, meaning Tory MPs don’t have to follow a party line. Labour supports the plan.
The UK’s biggest tobacco firms, who saw their shares wiped by almost £1billion following the announcement, warned the plan ‘threatens significant unintended consequences’.
It is estimated that tobacco duties will raise £10.4billion for the Treasury this year, with that amount now gradually set to decrease under the plan to phase out legal sales.
But the Government believes that, if enacted, the phased ban will lead to 1.7million fewer people smoking by 2075 – saving tens of thousands of lives, and avoiding avoid up to 115,000 cases of strokes, heart disease, lung cancer and other lung diseases.
Mr Sunak also insisted that smoking will not be criminalised, suggesting that Brits subject to the ban won’t be fined for buying them abroad.
And the Government insisted that anyone who can legally buy cigarettes now ‘will not be prevented from doing so in the future’.
The policy is similar to one enacted in New Zealand, which became law late last year.
That law effectively means people living there who are born after 2009 will never legally be able to purchase cigarettes.
It as yet unclear what impact the policy is having on smoking cessation, though experts are hopeful it will work.
The approach was initially recommended in a Government-commissioned report last year by ex-children’s charity chief Javed Khan.
He was tasked with finding ways England could be smoke-free by 2030 — defined as less than five per cent of people smoking.
At the time he warned that that without urgent action, England would miss the 2030 ‘smoke-free’ target by at least seven years, with the poorest areas not meeting it until 2044.
As well as implementing the policy announced by Mr Sunak, Dr Khan suggested banning supermarkets from selling tobacco products, making it illegal to smoke in public places, such as pub gardens, and slapping an 18-plus rating on all films and TV shows with tobacco imagery.
He warned smoking costs the country £17billion every year, including £2.4billion to the NHS alone.
Smoking rates in the UK are now the lowest on record, at 12.9 per cent — or around 6.4million people.
But smoking kills around 78,000 people in the UK every year, with many more living with illnesses due to their habit — half of which are due to cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack and stroke.
It is estimated that around 500,000 hospital admissions every year in England are attributable to smoking and that smoking costs the economy £17billion per year.
Of this, £2.4billion falls on the NHS, £1.19billion falls on the social care system, and over £13billion is lost in productivity costs from tobacco-related lost earnings, unemployment and premature death.
The 7,000 chemicals in tobacco — including tar and others that can narrow arteries and damage blood vessels — are thought to be behind some of the damage smoking inflicts on the heart.
Meanwhile, nicotine — a highly addictive toxin found in tobacco — is heavily linked with dangerous increases in heart rate and blood pressure.
Smoking also unleashes poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide, which replaces oxygen in the blood — reducing the availability of oxygen for the heart.