Cigarettes could be phased out from the market altogether by slowly increasing the age they can be bought.
A government commissioned review recommended the legal age of sale for tobacco products in England should be raised by one year every 12 months until eventually no one can buy them.
It would mean that, depending on when the new law was enacted, the age limit could be in the mid-20s by the end of the decade.
The report also proposes an immediate 30% hike in the duties on products, increasing tax on rollies so they are no longer a ‘cheap’ alternative and banning the sale of all tobacco at duty free in airports.
It’s unclear if the government intends to adopt the proposal as official policy but will be expected to respond in due course.
Almost six million people in England smoke and tobacco remains the country’s single biggest cause of preventable illness and death, according to the health department.
Dr Javed Khan was tasked with drawing up proposals to make smoking ‘obsolete’ by 2030, meaning no more than 5% of people smoke by then.
The former Victim Support and Barnardo’s chief warned ‘we now need to make it as hard as possible to smoke, and as easy as possible to quit’.
He said the large reductions in smoking rates in recent decades have become a ‘small trickle’ and there would be half a million more deaths linked to the trade by 2030.
In the conclusion to his report, he wrote: ‘The government now has the opportunity to make our country a place where cigarettes disappear from our shops…[and] where the tobacco industry won’t want to trade.’
Promoting vaping is also among his four ‘critical’ recommendations, calling it an ‘effective tool to help people to quit’, while conceding it is not a ‘silver bullet’ or ‘totally risk-free’.
The reports advocates for higher taxes on the tobacco industry to pay for investment in helping people to quit and expanding the offer of prevention tools to every point of contact in the health service.
Dr Khan compared the proposals to the 2007 indoor smoking ban, writing: ‘While there was much opposition at the time, we would never go back now.
‘It has changed social norms. We now need to go further.’
New Zealand’s government adopted a policy earlier this year to ban the sale of cigarettes to anyone born after 2008.
It means that by 2026, the country will have a generation of adults who are never able to legally purchase smoking products.
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