Rishi Sunak Announces Plan to Ban Smoking

/ 5 min read

Rishi Sunak Announces Plan to Ban Smoking

Last week (October 3rd 2023), UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delivered a speech at the Tory Party Conference The Independent reports.

Within this speech he laid out clear and concise plans that his government intend on rolling out to combat not only the youth vaping problem that is occurring in England, but also how to bring down the smoking rates in England.

The way they intend on doing this is introducing a historical new law surrounding the legal smoking age. This landmark move would mimic the approach of New Zealand in 2022, which you can read about here.

A Historical New Law To Be Passed For England?

The main takeaway point from Rishi Sunak’s speech was the planned roll out of new legislation which could make it an offence for anyone born on or after January 1st 2009 to be sold tobacco products.

This means that those who are currently 14 years old or younger would legally never be allowed to buy cigarettes.

This plan also effectively raises the smoking age one year every year until it applies to the whole population of England, and making smoking amongst young people obsolete by the year 2040, with this contributing to the Government’s goal of achieving a “Smoke Free Generation” – a 5% total national smoking rate target which has recently been pushed back from 2030 to circa 2040.

This is the first time the UK has taken such a tough stance on smoking rates in recent years, and if passed, the legislation would enact one of the four “must-do” pillars of the somewhat controversial Khan Review last year.

There have been laws on tobacco that have been passed previously such as plain packaging for tobacco products, the ban on sale of menthol tobacco products and also raising the legal smoking age from 16 to 18. None of these however have caused quite as much uproar as this most recent consideration.

When the menthol cigarette ban was introduced, there was a rise in the amount of people quitting smoking and starting to use an E-Cigarette and Menthol Vape Juice in an effort to still get the menthol flavoured nicotine that they had been accustomed to.

There’s a strong possibility that the introduction of these new laws could see another rise in the number of adults quitting smoking and turning to using an E-Cigarette.

Taking A Look At What New Zealand Have Done
On December 13th 2022, New Zealand passed a law which banned the sale of cigarettes to anyone born in the year 2009 or after, meaning they would be rising the legal smoking age year on year until the year 2050 when the legal smoking age would be 42 years old.

Official figures show that roughly 8% of adults in New Zealand smoke daily, that’s a drop of over 50% in just under a year which is phenomenal when you think about it.

But that’s not the only thing which is significant, as the biggest drop rates of tobacco smoking is amongst 18-24 year olds. The percentage of this age group which are now smokers is 8.2%, dropping right down from the 25% which it was back in 2006.

The True Cost Of Smoking

One of the driving factors for the clamp down on smoking here in England by Rishi Sunak is the sheer amount that smoking is costing the UK Economy every single year. We have explored this previously in our blogs.

£17 billion is the latest estimate, with the NHS facing the brunt of these costs. One patient every minute is admitted to hospital with a smoking related illness in England, as well as 75,000 GP appointments being taken every month, treating patients with smoking related illnesses.

Smoking is the biggest cause of avoidable deaths in England, with over 64,000 deaths per year attributed to smoking.

In turn, this is where the cost to the economy comes in to play, with NHS costs soaring due to treating one patient every minute in hospital as well as 75,000 GP appointments every single month treating patients with smoking related illnesses.

The cost of smoking to you as an individual is the highest it’s ever been as well.

If you’re classed as a heavy smoker, buying a pack of 20 cigarettes a day at £12.50 a time which is the average cost of 20 cigarettes in the UK at the time of writing according to Statista. This equates to over £4000 per year.

Vaping is not only a safer alternative for your health and wellbeing according to the UK Gov, it is considerably more cost effective as well compared to smoking.

You can buy 12 bottles of vape juice for the same price as a pack of 20 cigarettes, and this can last you for the whole month, not just one day like a pack of cigarettes.

What Could Happen Next?
There’s a whole host of speculation and questions to be asked surrounding what could happen as and when this law is passed in England as well as other plans that Rishi Sunak laid out during his conference.

  • What could this mean for vaping?
  • How will this impact the Economy and the NHS?
  • Will the cost of smoking continue to increase?

Whilst we don’t have clear cut answers and at this point, we can speculate, here’s what we think could happen…

Looking back at New Zealand, they have noticed a significant increase in the number of adult users of E-Cigarettes after they implemented the same restrictions. There’s a chance that similar increases could happen here in England as well.

The economy and the NHS would face reduced financial pressure with less people smoking in England, this would mean the chances of people contracting smoking related illnesses would decrease.

This would result in fewer hospital admissions and less GP appointments in turn, relieving some of the pressure on the NHS and allowing faster access to care for non-smokers, which is much needed at this point in time.

There’s a strong possibility for the price of tobacco products to continue to rise year on year as it has done to-date, but at a much steeper rate.

If the costs became too much however, people may resort to obtaining tobacco products which have been brought into the country illegally and offered out at a considerably cheaper price. The risk of purchasing and using these illicit tobacco products are high as there is nobody to hold accountable for counterfeit or potentially contaminated goods.

However, within his speech, Rishi Sunak did confirm the Government would be injecting £30 million to support agencies such as Trading Standards, HMRC and Border Control to combat the importation of illicit tobacco products at our borders.

Until the proposal is discussed further, the outcomes remain unclear, however we will continue to report on this as it develops.