UK Smoking Ban Proposed for Under 25's

/ 4 minute read
UK Smoking Ban Proposed for Under 25's

Yet another step towards the UK government’s plans to achieve a ‘smoke free’ generation by 2030 has been made by a prominent anti-smoking tsar this month. The proposal would see the UK follow the example set by New Zealand last year (2021), wherein the NZ government banned the sale of tobacco to residents born after 2008.

A number of cessation measures have been proposed in the run-up to this latest development, including a national call for vaping manufacturers to submit devices for medical licencing. Vaping has experienced newfound credibility as a cessation tool off the back of these events, with a major NHS A&E trial underway. The trial seeks to corroborate the growing body of evidence suggesting quit attempts are far more successful when vaping is used alongside existing therapy and counselling resources.

This latest proposition is focussed more on the restriction of tobacco sales in the UK. It is likely part of an increased response we have seen from government and anti-smoking lobbyists alike in the wake of fears that the smoke-free 2030 target may not be achievable with current cessation rates. A fear that was compounded by a sudden spike in youth smoking uptake during covid lockdown in the UK.

The new UK smoking ban

Alongside propositions in parliament to print smoking kills on individual cigarettes later in 2021, we also saw the proposal to raise the UK smoking age to 21, in-line with nations like the USA. The latest proposition feels like an extension of this thought-process.

An independent review on how to stop Britons smoking, led by new anti-smoking tsar Javed Khan OBE, will present findings intended to help the UK government bolster it’s cessation resources. Khan, the former CEO of the Barnardo’s children’s charity has been considering the proposal of a ban on tobacco sales to UK residents below the age of 25.

The influential philanthropist already has the backing of UK parliament, with Khan’s report officially commissioned by health secretary Sajid Javid. The findings of the report are due next month. Speaking to The Times, Mr Khan said: 'We are thinking seriously about the age of sale.' The report will assess the government’s current progress in it’s ambition to make England smoke-free by the end of the decade but faces scrutiny from khan for not going far enough.

Considering measures such as those enforced in New Zealand, in which anyone born after 2008 won't be able to buy tobacco products, the anti-smoking tsar is contemplating whether there is an argument for 'for raising the age to 19, 20, 21, or even 25' here in the UK.

A new approach to anti-smoking promotion

Mr Khan is thinking beyond the typical realms explored by government in the actual promotion and power of mass-marketing an anti-smoking message. In particular he noted the power of social media in promoting public health, and awareness throughout the coronavirus pandemic. 'Just look at the Covid experience, mass marketing has a big effect, it really works. The government went hell for leather, it made an enormous difference in vaccination rates,' he said.

In similar style, the tsar called for the public’s input on the matter in a twitter thread which read:

“I want to hear your views and what we can do to support current smokers to quit, and to stop people taking up smoking.”

“How do we stop people, especially children and young people, from starting smoking in the first place?”

“Have you quit smoking for good? What worked? What do you think could work better?”

“Have you ever used a Stop Smoking Service to quit smoking?”

“Or spoken to your GP about it? What was your experience?”

Sajid Javed posted a statement on the government’s website regarding the pandemic and its influence now on medical care, including smoking cessation:

The pandemic has shown the resilience of the British public and brought communities together to look after each other in the most challenging times. But it has also exposed chasms in our society – particularly in health”

The disparity between different ethno-social and socio-economic groups within society has already been referenced in recent anti-smoking campaigns. It was noted that the rate of uptake, and successful quit attempts were dramatically higher and lower respectively in underprivileged areas when compared to the more affluent.

This is again being assessed alongside Mr Khan’s new report, in a secondary review considering 'potential ethnic bias in the design and use of medical devices', being led by the University of Liverpool's professor of public health, Dame Margaret Whitehead.

The findings of the report remain to be seen, as do the follow-up actions taken by government, however Mr Khan remains hopeful:

“I am very pleased to be leading this review into such an important area of public health. My independent findings will help highlight key interventions which can help the government achieve its ambitions to be smoke-free by 2030 and tackle health disparities.”