British review backs raising smoking age

The legal age of sale for cigarettes in England should be raised by one year every year until eventually no one can buy tobacco products, a government-commissioned review recommends.

Progressively increasing the minimum age from 18 was one of 15 interventions recommended in the review ordered by health minister Sajid Javid to help meet a target to be ‘smokefree’ by 2030.

Smokefree is defined as 5 per cent smoking prevalence or less in England.

Other interventions included the promotion of vapes as a “swap to stop” tool to help people quit smoking, and a tobacco licence for retailers to limit availability.

The government said it would consider the recommendations and publish its own plan in due course.

There are an estimated 6 million smokers in England and the minimum age for the legal purchase of tobacco in England, Scotland and Wales was last raised in 2007 from 16 to 18 years.

Last year, New Zealand announced plans to ban future generations from ever purchasing cigarettes with people aged 14 and under in 2027 not being allowed to buy cigarettes in the country in their lifetime.

The head of the review Javed Khan, former CEO of children’s charity Barnardo’s, warned the British government was on track to miss its targets.

“Without immediate and sustained action, England will miss the smokefree target by many years and most likely decades,” he said.

Jefferies analysts published a note ahead of the announcement saying that if aggressive control measure were implemented, it would create greater risks for tobacco companies more focused on ‘combustible’ tobacco products, naming Imperial Brands and Japan Tobacco

Conversely Jefferies said it could create opportunities for those like British American Tobacco and Philip Morris, which it said had more reliance on sales from reduced risk products, such as vapes.

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