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Press Release

New polling shows majority of small retailers support the government’s smokefree generation policy

13 Apr 2024

Saturday 13th April
New polling shows majority of small retailers support the government’s smokefree generation policy

  • Over half of all retailers in England and Wales support raising the age of sale one year every year, nearly double the proportion opposed [1]
  • The largest poll of public opinion conducted to date (over 13,000 GB adults) finds 69% support including over half of all current smokers [2]
  • Detailed results with geographical breakdowns are set out in the ASH report also published today

In advance of the second reading of the Tobacco and Vapes Bill on Tuesday, ASH has published polling data showing that the majority of small tobacco retailers in England and Wales support the government’s proposals to raise the age of sale for tobacco.

Over half (51%) of independent tobacco retailers contacted by phone said they supported the legislation, nearly double those opposed (26%). There is even greater support among retailers for creating a smokefree generation (65%).

Bob Blackman CBE MP (Conservative), Chairman of the APPG on Smoking and Health said:

“Small retailers are at the heart of our communities so it is no surprise that they support the creation of a smokefree generation by legislating so no-one born after 2008 can be sold tobacco. The Prime Minister can be reassured that not only does his Bill have the support of the vast majority of parliamentarians and the public, but also the shopkeepers whose responsibility it will be to implement the legislation.”

Public Health Minister, Andrea Leadsom, said:
"Smoking is the number one preventable cause of disability, ill health and death in this country. Once it becomes a habit, its addictive nature means that it is extremely difficult to stop.

“Because the case against these harmful products is so strong, it's not surprising that the majority of the British public—including those who smoke and those who sell tobacco—support plans to protect the next generation from the misery of smoking.

"Our plan will save lives, ease the strain on our NHS, and ensure a brighter future for our children."

The representative survey of 900 independent tobacco retailers in England and Wales was commissioned by ASH and supported by funding from Cancer Research UK. [3]

Dr Ian Walker, Cancer Research UK’s executive director of policy, said:

“The age of sale legislation has clear support from both the public and retailers. It’s the boldest public health measure we have seen in decades and could make the UK a world leader in tobacco control. The message to MPs is clear: vote for this legislation and help create a smokefree UK, so that future generations can live their lives free from the fear of cancer caused by smoking."

In the largest British opinion survey published to date, a poll of over 13,000 adults in Great Britain shows 69% support the legislation (12% oppose). A majority (52%) of smokers also support raising the age of sale, one year every year, more than double the proportion (24%) opposed.

Support is also high across voters for all the major parties. Among those who voted Conservative in the last general election in the ASH poll 70% back the policy as do 74% of those who voted Labour and 75% of Liberal Democrat voters. Data is representative of GB adults by key demographics, but party vote is not controlled for and is based on natural fallout. [3]

Hazel Cheeseman, deputy chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health said:

“ASH has commissioned a number of surveys of small retailers since 2016 and they consistently show that retailers support tougher regulation of tobacco and do not think tobacco laws have damaged their business. Tobacco manufacturers and the organisations they fund claim that regulations cause problems for retailers and are too difficult to implement, but history says otherwise.”

The Bill will make it mandatory for any customers in Scotland who look like they were born on or after 1 January 2009 to provide proof of age, but this is not a requirement for the rest of the United Kingdom. An overwhelming majority of retailers in England and Wales (71%) and the public in Great Britain (72%) support mandatory age verification for purchase of tobacco.

John McClurey, retired tobacco retailer from Newcastle, who during his 39 years as a small shop owner successfully implemented the increase in the age of sale from 16 to 18, and putting tobacco out of sight in his shops said,
“Like the communities they serve, retailers support creating a smokefree generation by raising the age of sale one year every year from 2027 onwards. However, I know from experience it will be easier for retailers to implement if age verification was required from anyone trying to buy tobacco who appeared to be underage. This won’t apply to existing adult smokers only to those who look as though they were born after 2008. It’s popular with the public as well as with retailers and will be a legal requirement in Scotland, so why not the whole of the UK?”

Kate Pike lead officer for tobacco and vaping at the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, said,

“The Chartered Trading Standards Institute welcomes the results of this survey showing far more retailers support the proposal to create a Smokefree generation than oppose it. We look forward to supporting retailers to understand and implement the new regulations, and assure them we will continue to take action against criminals who seek to undermine them by ignoring the law.”


Notes to the Editor

Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. For more information see: ASH receives funding for its programme of work from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.

Contact: . Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive, and Hazel Cheeseman, Deputy Chief Executive, are available for media interviews.

The full report is available online: Support for Stopping the Start: Local retailers and the public back smokefree generation laws. ASH 13th April 2024

[1] The survey of independent retailers was conducted by NEMS, a market research company for ASH using computer-assisted telephone interviews among a random sample of 904 managers or owners of small shops selling tobacco in England and Wales. Retailers included newsagents, off-licences, specialist tobacconists, local convenience stores/supermarkets (including symbol groups), and independent fuel stations.

[2] The survey was carried out online by YouGov Plc for ASH. Total sample size was 13266 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 29/02/2024 - 18/03/2024. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).