King Charles has put forward a landmark proposal aimed at fostering a “smoke-free generation,” by proposing a ban on tobacco sales to all individuals who are currently under the age of fourteen, effectively setting a lifetime prohibition for this demographic.
During his inaugural address to Parliament as King, Charles unveiled the Tobacco and Vapes Bill. The legislation, if enacted, would ensure that those born after 2009 will never have the legal capacity to buy tobacco in England throughout their lifetime.
In his address to the legislative body, the King said, “My Government will put forward a bill that aspires to craft a smoke-free generation, restricting tobacco sales to ensure that today’s fourteen-year-olds and younger will never be legally sold cigarettes. This includes tightening controls on the sale and promotion of e-cigarettes to the youth.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak lauded the initiative, emphasizing that it would guarantee that a fourteen-year-old today, and their entire generation, could enjoy a life unfettered by legal tobacco sales, with aspirations of a smoke-free existence, LADBible reported.
Under this pioneering approach, starting from January 1, 2009, no one born would ever be permitted to buy tobacco products, marking a strategic step towards phasing out these items for future generations.
Prime Minister Sunak assured that while the sale of smoking products would be banned for certain age groups, smoking itself would not become a criminal offense.
Expectations are that the proposed Bill could result in nearly 1.7 million fewer smokers by the year 2075, with a possibility of eradicating smoking among the younger population by 2040.
These plans were first broached by Mr. Sunak at the Conservative Party conference in September, where he underlined the necessity to confront smoking — the leading preventable cause of various health issues, disabilities, and mortality.
According to Mr. Sunak, the Bill embodies the tough, yet indispensable choices required to steer the country towards a brighter future, targeting tobacco — the most addictive legally sold product — particularly since the majority of smokers begin before turning 20.
Despite the progressive nature of the Bill, it has been met with resistance from within Mr. Sunak’s own party, with reports of Tory MPs ready to oppose the Bill should it come to a free vote in the House of Commons.
Additionally, the proposed legislation aims to tighten regulations on vaping and the use of e-cigarettes among the youth.
Support for the government’s resolve to change the tobacco sales age has come from various corners, including Cancer Research UK. The organization’s CEO, Michelle Mitchell, commended the government’s decisive stance and urged for the legislation to be introduced to Parliament in early 2024, calling for cross-party support.
“I’ve never met anyone who wants their child to take up smoking. Cancer Research UK estimates that there are around 885,000 16–24-year-olds smoking in the UK today.”