Posted: Thu 5th Oct 2023

Public Health Wales welcomes Rishi Sunak plans to phase out smoking

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Oct 5th, 2023

Public Health Wales has backed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak plans to raise the legal age for purchasing cigarettes.

If legislation is enacted, it would mean that individuals born on or after 1 January 2009 would never be permitted to legally purchase cigarettes or other tobacco products.

In a pledge to maintain transparency, Sunak stated that members of parliament would get a free vote on this proposal, allowing them to vote based on their beliefs and not necessarily along party lines.

Speaking at the annual Tory party conference in Manchester on Wednesday, the prime minister drew attention to the alarming statistics around early initiation into smoking.

“A 14-year-old today will never legally be sold a cigarette and they and their generation can grow up smoke-free,” Sunak asserted.

While the primary focus was on tobacco, Sunak also highlighted the importance of addressing the growing vape culture.

Plans are in place to restrict the availability of vapes to protect the next generation. He empathically mentioned that the rights of current smokers will not be infringed upon. Instead, the objective is prevention – stopping teenagers from taking up the habit.

The government’s chief medical officer, Sir Chris Whitty, showed his support for the plan. Echoing the sentiments of many, he remarked, “Most people who smoke wish they had never taken it up. They try to stop and they can’t.”

Despite a consistent decline in smoking rates since record-keeping commenced, it’s estimated that 5 to 6 million people, roughly one in eight adults in England and Wales, still smoke. A vast majority began the habit in their teenage years, underscoring the necessity of the proposed law.

Public Health Wales, through its National Director of Health and Wellbeing, Jim McManus, welcomed the proposal.

He said: “Public Health Wales welcomes the announcement by the Prime Minister to allow a free vote in parliament on raising the legal age of smoking by one year.“

“Smoking remains a major factor in premature death, avoidable illness and health inequalities across Wales. ”

“Smoking was associated with over 5,000 deaths and almost one in 20 hospital admission in those over 35 in Wales in 2018.”

“Although smoking prevalence amongst young people in Wales has fallen over the long term, the most recent evidence suggests that seven per cent of Year 11 children in Wales were smoking at least weekly in 2021.”

“Most people who smoke begin at a young age.  Previous policies to raise the age of smoking have been effective in reducing the number of young people taking up smoking and the total number smoking in Wales.”

“We believe this policy would be effective in reducing smoking amongst young people in Wales even further and that it would make a real contribution to the ambition for a smoke-free Wales by 2030.”

The Welsh Government hasn’t commented on the proposal but has previously stated it would work closely with UK Government counterparts to strengthen rules on nicotine products.

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