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English health officials have suggested the country should raise the legal smoking age from 18 to 21 as part of an initiative to discourage smoking and mostly eliminate it by 2030.
The British government in 2019 set the new deadline after a green paper report indicated that the then-current timeline of ending smoking by 2025 seemed unlikely. The report found that 14% of adults smoked.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said that the goal is to bring that number to below 5% over the next eight years, and raising the legal age for smoking to 21 could prove a crucial part to that plan.
A source close to Javid told the Telegraph that he commissioned an independent report in February as political cover in case Downing Street decided to scrap the 2030 pledge due to a lack of progress. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson reportedly has started reviewing policies that are unfavorable with party backbenchers in order to shelve them and improve his support.
Johnson has faced a number of scandals over the past few months, including parties at government offices in defiance of the U.K.’s COVID-19 lockdown. The scandals seriously eroded the prime minister’s support and caused some in his party to start questioning if he was fit to remain in office.
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“Sajid Javid is interested in health inequality and he is interested in tackling public health issues, but the Government is in hock to right-wing MPs,” said one source involved in the report. “On tobacco, they are still nervous about some kind of nanny state attack.”
Javid Khan, the author of the study, will recommend that the government raise the smoking age, with two sources telling the Telegraph that he had considered a recommendation of setting the age at 25.
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But a source close to the prime minister told the Telegraph that Johnson does not support raising the age at all as he considers 18 the age of legal responsibility. Khan reportedly looked at the U.S. and New Zealand, the latter of which has banned the sale of cigarettes to anyone born on or after 2008.
Swiss-American tobacco group Philip Morris International (PMI) set a mark of ending all tobacco cigarette sales in the U.K. by 2030, offering smoke-free products and e-vapor alternatives.
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“Quitting is the best option, but for those who don’t, science and technology has allowed companies like ours to create better alternatives to continued smoking,” Dr. Moira Gilchrist, head of global scientific communications, previously told FOX Business. “Encouraging people who don’t quit to switch to these better alternatives, together with strong regulation will help solve the problem of cigarette smoking once and for all.”