ASH tells Government raising legal age for buying tobacco is not enough.

Monday 02 October 2006

ASH news release:  Embargo: 00:01 Monday 2nd October 2006


As the Government’s public consultation on raising the legal age for the purchase of tobacco draws to a close today, ASH is calling on the Government not just to raise the minimum purchase age to 18 but also to implement a raft of other policies to reduce teenage smoking. [1] In addition, ASH argues that all retailers who sell tobacco should be required to hold a licence (positive licensing) and that the licence should be revoked if retailers repeatedly break the law on sales to minors.

Evidence from other countries suggests that simply raising the age will not significantly reduce teen smoking rates but could work as part of a package of measures.  ASH therefore recommends the following:

Ø      a ban on the sale of cigarettes from vending machines

Ø      increasing the fines to retailers who sell to under-age smokers

Ø      prohibiting residual tobacco marketing at the point of sale

Ø      the introduction of graphic health warnings on tobacco packaging and at the point of sale

Ø      further tightening of controls on tobacco smuggling

Ø      further controls on the portrayal of smoking in the broadcast media

Ø      generic (plain) packaging

Whilst supporting the Government’s proposal to raise the minimum age for buying tobacco, ASH is calling for a positive licensing system for retailers, rather than the Government’s preferred option of a ‘negative’ system which would not require retailers to hold a licence.

Amanda Sandford, Research Manager of the health campaigning charity ASH, said:

“At present it is far too easy for teenagers to get hold of cigarettes and the current penalties against retailers who sell to young people are feeble.  Typically shop-keepers are fined less than £200. [2]  If the government is serious about tackling youth smoking then much stronger sanctions against retailers who break the law are required with fines closer to the current maximum of £2500 being applied . Under a positive licensing system retailers would have to be registered and those who repeatedly flouted the law would be struck off.  It would also make the monitoring and enforcement of the law easier for trading standards officers.

ASH also believes there is a strong case for banning the sale of tobacco from vending machines. The fact that almost a quarter of teen smokers are getting their cigarettes from these machines shows that the current law has fallen into disrepute.  Instead of deadly tobacco, the machines could help smokers give up by selling nicotine gum and patches.”


Notes and links:

[1]  ASH’s full response can be viewed as a pdf here

The Government’s consultation document is here.

[2]  The latest data from the Office for Criminal Justice Reform reveals that in 2004 50 retailers in England and Wales were fined for selling tobacco to minors.  Of these 12 received fines between £151-£200 while only one was fined more than £1000.

Contact:  Amanda Sandford  on 020 7739 5902 (w) ISDN available


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