ASH Welcomes Government Moves on Under Age Tobacco Sales: But Getting Adults to Quit Still the Most Important Step

Monday 03 July 2006

ASH news release:  For immediate release:  Monday 3rd July 2006


ASH Welcomes Government Moves on Under Age Tobacco Sales: But Getting Adults to Quit Still the Most Important Step

Health campaigning charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) has welcomed the Government’s decision to consult on raising the legal age for buying tobacco from 16 to 18. This is a logical step to take, as it would bring tobacco products in line with alcohol. The Government’s estimate is that it would lead to a long-term reduction in adult smoking rates of up to 0.5 percentage points [1]. A June 2004 MORI poll for the BBC suggested that raising the buying age to 18 would be backed by 80% of the British public [2].


However, ASH believes that direct steps to reduce adult smoking rates are in the long run the most effective way to stop children from starting to smoke – since the evidence shows that most teenagers who start to smoke see it as a desirable and adult activity. The Government’s estimate for the effect of a comprehensive ban on smoking in enclosed public places, as set out in the Health Bill now in the House of Lords, is that it would cut smoking rates by 1.7 percentage points – more than three times the effect of raising the legal age of sale.


ASH has also warned that local councils will have to take more serious action to enforce the law than many now do. In 2004, there were only 73 prosecutions for under-age sales in England and Wales, with 57 convictions [3]. In 2003, only a quarter of those convicted of this offence were fined more than £300. ASH therefore strongly supports the Government’s proposal to create a licensing system so that retailers who repeatedly sell to underage customers could have their license withdrawn.


Amanda Sandford, ASH Research Manager, said:


“We welcome the Government’s proposal to raise the legal age for buying tobacco products to 18. It really makes no sense to allow 16 year olds to buy tobacco but not alcohol – when smoking tobacco causes early addiction and terrible long-term health damage.


This is a modestly useful step, provided that the new legal age is properly enforced by local Councils, and the proposed new licensing system is adopted and used. But in the long run, all the evidence shows that the way to stop young people from smoking is to persuade adults to quit. If smoking is no longer seen as a desirable adult thing to do, children will not start to smoke.”


– ENDS –


Notes and links:

[1] Consultation on Under-Age Sale of Tobacco, paragraph 57

[2] MORI poll for BBC, June 2004

[3] House of Commons Written Answer


Contact: Amanda Sandford  or Ian Willmore   020 7739 5902 (w) 07887 641344 (IW mobile)

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