England’s Legal Smoking Age May be Raised From 18 to 21

The tobacco age limit is being considered as part of the strategy to make the nation smoke-free by 2030.

In 2017, the UK’s Tobacco Control Plan listed the government’s plans for a “Smoke Free” England, which aims to reduce smoking rates to 5% or less, and would equate to roughly one in 20 people being smokers. The finalized plan was rolled out in 2019, with a target to achieve the ‘Smoke-free’ status by 2030.

Sadly, recent forecasts have been revealing that 97% of England is likely to miss this target, and only 4 out of the 135 existing counties are believed to be currently on track. These figures were calculated based on current PHE smoking prevalence and quit rates.

Besides the obvious public health implications, this delay is predicted to cost over £40.4 billion in local authority social care and NHS costs. In fact, according to NHS data, there were over half a million smoking related hospital admissions in 2019/2020 alone. This figure is 10% higher than it was a decade earlier.

Recent review expected to support new taxes on tobacco company profits
To this effect, local authorities have been looking into ways to facilitate these plans. Besides raising the local smoking age from 18 to 21, a recent review commissioned by the health secretary, Sajid Javid, and led by Javed Khan, the former chief executive of the children’s charity Barnardo’s, is also expected to support new taxes on tobacco company profits.

The review is also said to be recommending increased efforts expected to encourage smokers, particularly pregnant women, to switch from smoking to vaping. Khan has been quoted by the Guardian as saying that he is in favour of “polluter pays”, where tobacco companies would be forced to finance anti-smoking policies.

While the Telegraph reported that a source consulted by Khan during the review said that his stance is very firm. “The stance he’s taken in the meetings I’ve had with him has been quite radical.”

The UK urged to reduce VAT on vaping products
Meanwhile, the Local Government Association (LGA) has recently urged the UK government to reduce the VAT on vaping products from 20% to 5%, to bring them into line with the rates on regular NRTs such as nicotine gum and patches.

The LGA, which represents councils in England and Wales, said that the current law only allows the 5% rate to be applied to “pharmaceutical products designed to help people stop smoking tobacco.” The association added that given the existing scientific evidence indicating that the products do actually help people quit, the 5% rate should be applied.

“There is increasing evidence that e-cigarettes, along with other dedicated support, act as an important gateway to help people to stop smoking, which reduces serious illness and death as well as other pressures on health and care services,” said the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board chairman David Fothergill.