The UK government is taking steps towards creating a ‘smoke-free generation’ by introducing a new law that will prohibit the sale of cigarettes to children who turn 14 this year or younger in England. Under this law, anyone born on or after January 1, 2009, will be unable to legally purchase tobacco products. The smoking age will increase by a year each year until it encompasses the entire population, potentially eradicating smoking in young people by 2040.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak expressed his support for these measures, stating, “No parent ever wants their child to start smoking. It is a deadly habit – killing tens of thousands of people and costing our NHS billions each year, while also being hugely detrimental to our productivity as a country.” Sunak emphasized his goal of building a better future for children, protecting their health and preventing them from becoming addicted to cigarettes.
Smoking is the largest preventable cause of death in the UK, accounting for approximately one in four cancer deaths and leading to 64,000 fatalities per year in England alone. The strain it places on the National Health Service (NHS) is significant, with nearly one hospital admission per minute attributable to smoking, and up to 75,000 monthly GP appointments dedicated to smoking-related illnesses.
Moreover, smoking is a major contributor to health disparities across the country. Rates of smoking during pregnancy vary widely, with some regions reporting up to 20 percent of pregnant women smoking. This significantly increases the risk of stillbirth by almost 50 percent, as stated by the UK government’s website.
In addition to the detrimental health effects, smoking also poses substantial economic costs. It burdens the economy with £17 billion annually, attributed to lost earnings, unemployment, premature deaths, and expenses incurred by the NHS.
These new measures represent one of the most significant public health interventions by the government in recent years. Failing to take action would have severe consequences, as an independent review published in 2022 estimated that nearly half a million people would die from smoking by 2030 if no intervention were implemented.
By introducing this law, the UK government aims to protect the health of future generations and reduce the burden of smoking-related illnesses on individuals, families, and the healthcare system. These measures mark a crucial step towards achieving a smoke-free society and ensuring a healthier future for all.
More detail via Asian News International (ANI) here… ( Image via Asian News International (ANI) )