Plans progressed to create a smokefree generation

Public consultation on historic proposals draws to a close, with roughly 25,000 responses from teachers, parents, healthcare professionals and public

  • UK in lead to be first country in the world to create a smokefree generation by phasing out the sale of tobacco
  • Government taking long-term decisions to protect children and an entire generation from the harms of smoking as they grow older

Plans to introduce the most significant public health intervention in a generation and phase out smoking are progressing at pace, as the government’s consultation closes today.

Amassing roughly 25,000 responses – including from healthcare professionals, public health experts, academics, teachers, parents and teenagers – officials will analyse results and ministers will set out next steps in the coming weeks, including details on the forthcoming Tobacco and Vapes Bill recently announced in the King’s Speech.

The majority of the public are behind the plans, and the government is determined to take vital action quickly to protect future generations from the harms of tobacco addiction.

The government’s response to the consultation will be published ahead of the Bill’s introduction to Parliament in the new year.

Public Health Minister, Andrea Leadsom, said:

"As a former teenage smoker, these historic plans might just have prevented me from ever lighting a cigarette.

"Smoking is the biggest preventable killer in the UK, and that’s why we need to push ahead at pace with our plans to protect today’s children, and create the first smokefree generation while cracking down on youth vaping.

"We are taking the long-term health decisions needed to safeguard the next generation from the harms of smoking and risk of addiction."

Government plans include introducing a new law to stop children who turned 14 this year or are younger from ever legally being sold tobacco in England. There is also a worrying rise in vaping among children and the government will therefore also introduce measures to reduce the appeal and availability of vapes to children, while ensuring they remain available as a quit tool for smokers.

This will prevent thousands of children from starting smoking in the coming years and potentially having their lives cut short as a result.

The UK is now proudly set to be the first country in the world to introduce such a landmark law on smoking.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said:

"With the overwhelming support of the public the UK has picked up the baton to become the first country in the world to create a smokefree generation.

"In the twentieth century the UK, home to the tobacco industry, had the highest smoking rates in the world, in the twenty first we are now on track to lead the way out of the tobacco epidemic.

"This will herald the start of a new era in tobacco control, where the end of the smoking is finally in sight."

Smoking is the UK’s biggest preventable killer, causing around 1 in 4 cancer deaths and 64,000 deaths in England alone, costing the economy and wider society £17 billion each year. No other consumer product kills up to two-thirds of its users and the plans will save tens of thousands of lives and save the NHS billions of pounds.

People take up cigarettes when they are young.

Four in five smokers have started by the time they are 20 and although the vast majority try to quit, many due to the addictive nature of cigarettes.

Cathy Hunt, 58, is a mum of four from County Durham. She was diagnosed with lung cancer and had half a lung removed in 2015 just two days before her 50th birthday. She underwent surgery again in 2022 when the cancer returned, and in June this year had a kidney removed due to cancer.

Cathy said:

"I am absolutely over the moon about the government’s plan to raise the age of sale for tobacco one year every year until we see the end of smoking, and all my family and friends are too.

"Smoking isn’t a lifestyle choice but a lethal addiction which traps hundreds of new victims in its claws every day, victims who struggle to escape. I only managed to stop once I found out I had lung cancer but wish now I could turn the clock back to the time I started smoking as a child aged 11.  

"That’s also why I’m so pleased the government is providing more funding for anti-smoking campaigns, stop smoking services and enforcement to help stop the start and start the stop for those already addicted to smoking like I was."

Gower Tan, Cancer Research UK ambassador and campaigns officer, said:

"I started smoking aged 13, and this deadly addiction took me over 25 years to quit. Having watched my dad – a lifelong smoker – die of lung cancer, I understand the devastating harms of tobacco and I support vital legislation on the age of sale. Knowing my children and future generations will not suffer the tragic consequences caused by smoking is a legacy we could all be proud of."

To tackle youth vaping, the government’s plans include a range of measures to reduce the appeal and availability of vapes to children, including restricting vapes flavours, regulating point of sale displays in stores that sell vapes, and regulating vape packaging.

Stakeholder reaction:

Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, Michelle Mitchell, said:

“Smoking is the biggest cause of cancer in the UK, responsible for around 150 cancers a day. Raising the age of sale for tobacco products is one of the biggest opportunities we have had to help prevent cancer in over a decade.

 “This consultation is a vital step on the road to the first ever smokefree generation. If the government takes decisive action in all UK nations, the UK can phase smoking out for good and protect the next generation from a potential lifetime of addiction and disease.”

John Herriman, chief executive at the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, said:

“It comes as no surprise that responses have been submitted in the thousands to this consultation that poses the biggest positive change to public health in our lifetime. Most people have been affected by smoking either directly or indirectly, and smoking related illnesses put a huge strain on the NHS. In time, this will free up much needed resources and will help safeguard future generations to come.”

“Effective policing of the age of sale of tobacco will be critical to the effectiveness of the government’s aim of eliminating smoking for future generations and Trading Standards teams working in local communities across the UK will play a central role in making this happen. We look forward to working with DHSC to ensure that we have the tools and resources needed to support businesses and educate consumers as the country phases out tobacco products for good."

Henry Gregg, director of external affairs for Asthma + Lung UK:

“Creating a smoke-free generation is one of the most impactful things we could do to improve the health of future generations. We know that many people with a lung condition and their families strongly support these proposals, to prevent others from going through what they have experienced. We urge the government to ensure these measures are implemented in full to save thousands of lives.

“Smoking remains the biggest cause of lung disease deaths in the UK, with tobacco costing the NHS £2.5 billion every year and £1.2 billion in social care costs.  More than 8 out of 10 smokers take up smoking before the age of 20 and become addicted, so proposals to gradually increase the smoking age to stop younger people from ever taking up smoking is an opportunity for the government to lead the way on measures that will protect future generations from developing lung conditions caused by this deadly addiction.”

Department of Health and Social Care
The Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP