All Party Group urges Government to keep its foot on the pedal and publish plan to deliver a smokefree future

22 July 2020 

All Party Group urges Government to keep its foot on the pedal and publish plan to deliver a smokefree future

A year after the Government’s announcement of its smokefree 2030 ambition, a new analysis of child smoking rates shows how the number of children under 16 taking up smoking fell dramatically as Government regulation of tobacco tightened after the turn of the century. [1]

Around one in five children smoked throughout the 1990s, when you could still buy cigarettes at 16, health warnings on cigarette packs were barely visible, and tobacco was heavily promoted on billboards and sponsored TV sporting events.

Two decades later, with a ban on all tobacco promotion, smoking in public places and cars carrying children banned, and glitzy packaging replaced by drab packs with large pictorial health warnings, fewer than one in twenty children smoke.[2 image below]

A new analysis presented to the All Party Group shows that if the number of children taking up smoking had not declined as it did, an additional five hundred children a day would be taking up smoking. But, with 280 children still lighting up for the first time every day, there is no room for complacency. Two thirds of those experimenting with smoking go on to become daily smokers. [3]

In a round table with the Public Health Minister today, the APPG congratulated the Government on achievements so far, and explored the next steps needed to deliver a future where children no longer smoke.

Chair of the APPG Bob Blackman MP said:

“In the 1990s, when around 1 in 5 children smoked, it was hard to imagine a future where smoking was not the norm. But twenty years later, that goal seems well within our grasp. I am heartened by the Minister’s words today and look forward to seeing the detail of Government’s plans to deliver a smokefree country by 2030.”

Ex-smoker Sue Mountain, from South Tyneside, who quit smoking after being treated for cancer of the throat, spoke to the All Party Group about why this matters to her:

“I started smoking when I was eleven to fit in; it felt like most children smoked when I was young. I’m glad that far fewer children smoke now, but just one child starting is one too many. I know from personal experience how easy it is to start smoking and how difficult it is to stop. I’m delighted the government has set an ambition for a smokefree generation by 2030. But words on their own are not enough; action is needed to prevent future generations ending up like me, with a constant worry that the cancer will come back because of my smoking. And I am one of the lucky ones, I’ve survived.”

The APPG is endorsing the Roadmap laid out by the Smokefree Action Coalition which sets out recommendations for how the Government’s ambition of a Smokefree 2030 can be delivered [4]. Parliamentarians attending the event heard expert presentations about:

  • why ending smoking is essential for the health and financial wellbeing of the country;
  • what measures are needed to deliver the Government’s smokefree ambition, including increasing the age of sale to 21; and
  • how legislation could be implemented to levy a charge on the tobacco industry to finance the measures needed to deliver the Government’s smokefree ambition.

Vice Chair of the APPG, Alex Cunningham MP, said:

“Tackling smoking has been a public health success for our country and has long since been a cross-party issue. We cannot take our foot off the pedal with the end in sight. If we act now, we’ll be able to look back in ten years on a truly historic achievement as we finally stub out cigarettes for good.”

The average rate of current smoking among 11-15 year olds in the 1990s was 19% compared with 5% in the most recent national survey.[5] Data for the numbers of children taking up smoking by local authority available on request.


Notes and Links

The Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health is Bob Blackman MP. The secretariat is provided by ASH. The purpose of the APPG is to monitor and discuss the health and social effects of smoking; to review potential changes in existing legislation to reduce levels of smoking; to assess the latest medical techniques to assist in smoking cessation; and to act as a resource for the group’s members on all issues relating to smoking and public health. For more information see:

For media enquiries contact or Deborah Arnott on 07976 935987.



[1] The analysis, undertaken by Action on Smoking and Health using a methodology developed by Cancer Research UK and Imperial College London, applied the average rate of smoking for 11-15 year olds in the 1990s to today to estimate how many children would have started smoking this year if smoking rates were at 1990s levels when around 1 in 5 children smoked.

[2] See below for illustration of falling rates of youth smoking matched to dates of implementation of Government measures to tackle smoking.














[3] Birge M, Duffy S, Miler JA, Hajek P. What Proportion of People Who Try One Cigarette Become Daily Smokers? A Meta-Analysis of Representative Surveys. Nicotine Tob Res. November 2018. doi:10.1093/ntr/ntx243


[4] Smokefree Action Coalition, Roadmap to a Smokefree 2030


[5] NHS Digital. Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use in Young People in England 2018. July 2019.