Labor government could introduce New Zealand-style ban on cigarette sales, says shadow health secretary Wes Streeting

  • Labor government could introduce New Zealand-like ban on cigarette sales
  • Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting says the party will consult on the new measures
  • The government has set a target of making England smoke-free by 2030

A Labor government could introduce a New Zealand-style ban on the sale of cigarettes.

Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting said the party would consult on phasing out the sale of cigarettes as part of ‘fresh radical thinking’ to ease pressure on the NHS.

New Zealand is set to introduce new laws this year that will make it illegal to sell tobacco to anyone born after 2008.

Believed to be the first such law in the world, the annually rising legal smoking age aims to prevent the country’s next generation from taking up smoking.

Mr Streeting said he was ‘really curious’ about how the New Zealand law, which includes a number of other measures to make smoking less affordable and accessible, would work.

It comes after a government commission’s independent review, published this summer, recommended raising the legal smoking age by one year every year from 18.

Ministers have previously set a target to make England smoke-free by 2030.

Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting said Labor would consult on phasing out the sale of cigarettes as part of ‘fresh radical thinking’ to ease pressure on the NHS.

New Zealand is set to introduce new laws this year that will make it illegal to sell tobacco to anyone born after 2008

New Zealand is set to introduce new laws this year that will make it illegal to sell tobacco to anyone born after 2008

There has been a steady decline in smoking since 1974, with around 15 per cent of the UK population smoking in 2019

There has been a steady decline in smoking since 1974, with around 15 per cent of the UK population smoking in 2019

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Should the sale of cigarettes be banned in the UK?

Mr Streeting told the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuensberg programme: “One of the things that was recommended in a review by the government was to phase out cigarette sales altogether over time.”

‘We will consult on that and a whole range of other measures.

‘The New Zealand government is doing it. We want to see how it works. But I’m really curious.

‘If we are going to get the NHS back on track we need to focus on public health too. And I’m curious to hear where the voters are on this, where the country is, and what’s the appetite for change.

‘So we’re going to be … have to think fundamentally. What the government has done to the NHS is a disgrace.

‘It’s going to take time to heal and to heal the new radical thinking and that’s what Labor is about.’

An independent review by Dr Javed Khan, commissioned by former health secretary Sajid Javid, was published in August and recommended a number of actions to help eradicate smoking in England.

Without further action, Dr Khan warned, England would miss the 2030 smoke-free target by at least seven years, and the poorest areas of society would not meet it until 2044.

Smoking rates in the UK have fallen from almost half the population in the 1970s to just around 15 per cent now.

But in England during the Covid pandemic, use among those under 30 had risen by 25 per cent, equivalent to more than 600,000 new smokers.

The Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) charity estimates that the annual cost to the NHS of treating smoking-related diseases is £2.4 billion.

They have also estimated the cost to social care and wider society to be in the billions of pounds.

The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that the tobacco tax will raise £10.7 billion in 2022-23.

Ash’s chief executive Deborah Arnott said: ‘Tackling smoking is vital as it is still a leading cause of premature death and disease, accounting for half the difference in life expectancy between the rich and the poor.’

‘Ash supports advice on raising the age of sales, but also how this should be achieved.

‘New Zealand’s option is one model, but another, easier to implement and also widely supported by most of the public and tobacco retailers, is to raise the age of sale to 21. Both the options should be considered.

How have UK laws on smoking changed?

1965 Cigarette advertisements are banned on TV

1971 Tobacco industry agrees to voluntarily include health warnings on cigarette packs

1974 – Government asks tobacco industry to allocate part of its advertising budget to health education

1981 – Tax on cigarettes increased by 14 paise on a packet of 20

1984 Smoking is banned on London Underground trains

1990 – Government introduces major health warnings for tobacco packaging in line with EC requirements

1991 – New laws tighten ban on sale of cigarettes to children under 16

nineteen ninety eight – An EU directive has been adopted to ban tobacco advertising and sponsorship

2002 – Laws to ban tobacco advertising are passed by the Parliament

2006 Scotland bans smoking in almost all workplaces and enclosed public places including pubs and clubs

2007 – A smoking ban comes into force in England, while the legal age to buy tobacco has been raised from 16 to 18

2012 Display of tobacco is banned in large shops

2014 – It is an offense for anyone under 18 to buy cigarettes, while the government gets new powers to introduce standardized packaging

2015 – A ban on displaying tobacco in small shops comes into force, while MPs vote in favor of a ban on smoking in cars with children

2019 The government is committed to making England smoke-free by 2030

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