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Press Release

Two thirds of the public back raising the age of sale to create a smokefree generation

29 Nov 2023

A new YouGov poll for Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) finds that 67% of people in England back the Prime Minister’s plans to create a smokefree generation by raising the age of sale so that it will never be legal to sell tobacco to anyone born after the start of 2009 (14% oppose).

The policy was backed by 74% of those who intend to vote Conservative at the next election, 72% of those intending to vote Labour, and 65% of those intending to vote Lib Dem. [1]

Deborah Arnott Chief Executive of ASH said:

This is not a party political issue in the UK; successive governments, backed by strong public and parliamentary support, have passed increasingly stringent tobacco regulations aimed at bringing the smoking epidemic to an end. The passing of the smokefree generation legislation promised in the King’s speech, backed by increased investment to help adult smokers quit, can put us in pole position to achieve a smokefree future.

Bob Blackman CBE, MP for Harrow East and Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health said:

No one wants to see children start smoking which is why support for this policy is so high across the political spectrum. As MPs we see the impact smoking has in our communities and many of us have experience in our own lives too. For me this is deeply personal. My late mother was only 47 when she died of lung and throat cancer, and was a very heavy smoker for most of her life.

Alice Wiseman, Policy Lead for Addiction for the Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH), said:

Every year, 64,000 people die in the UK as a direct result of tobacco consumption. We know that most smokers start young, regret ever starting and then struggle to quit. While we will continue to support those people who want to quit, we must break the cycle of our children and young people becoming addicted to this lethal product. The fact that two thirds of people in England also support raising the age of sale is a clear sign that the proposed legislation must be made a reality so that we can give the next generation more freedom to live healthier – and longer – lives.

Cllr David Fothergill, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:

Smoking remains one of the leading causes of preventable ill health, disability, and death in England.

“The UK is taking a significant step forward by considering raising the legal age of sale for tobacco products and councils want to support these efforts in any way they can.

“We believe this is a progressive piece of legislation that would undoubtedly impact on smoking prevalence, and ultimately reduce rates of smoking-related disease.

The poll comes with one week to go until the end of the UK-wide Government consultation to stop the start of new smokers, which also covers tougher regulation to curb youth vaping.

The consultation closes on December 6 and ASH has today submitted its consultation response which backs raising the age of sale and a legal requirement for retailers to request proof of age from all those who buy tobacco to make it easier to implement.[2] Two thirds (67%) of the public back a legal requirement for proof of age for all those buying tobacco.

The consultation also considers what further regulations are needed on vaping products. ASH is calling for the following measures:

  • Making disposable vapes subject to duty to reduce their affordability and increase powers of HMRC and Border Force to prevent illegal vapes being imported.
  • Putting vapes behind the counter and preventing their promotion in shops
  • Banning product design and brand imagery on vapes and their packaging which is appealing to children.

Together these measures will limit the affordability and appeal of vaping products to children while ensuring e-cigarettes remain available as a less harmful alternative for smokers who want to quit.

Deborah Arnott Chief Executive of ASH said:
ASH annual surveys of youth vaping have demonstrated the link between the growth of youth vaping and rapid rise in use of disposable vapes in recent years. Our recommendations to government address the appalling child-friendly marketing of vapes to children. They include strict regulation of product design, brand imagery and promotion instore, with duty added to prevent the sale at pocket money prices of the disposable vapes most popular with children. Smokefree generation and vape legislation go hand in hand, they are both needed to protect the next generation from harm and must be passed before the end of this parliament.

[1] All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 3,533 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 15th - 17th November 2023. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all adults in England (aged 18+).

[2] ASH response to the DHSC consultation on Creating a smokefree generation and tackling youth vaping.