Charities call on next government to revive smoking ban ‘as a priority’

It comes as new analysis commission by Action on Smoking and Health claimed the majority of adults support the plans.

Charities have urged political parties to commit to putting the smoking ban into their manifestos
Charities have urged political parties to commit to putting the smoking ban into their manifestos (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The next government must revive legislation designed to ban young people from ever being able to legally smoke “as a priority”, charities have urged.

It comes as analysis revealed the majority of Britons back plans to phase out the sale of tobacco, which were announced by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last year.

The law would have made it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born after January 1 2009, as well as cracking down on youth vaping with stricter regulations on flavours and packaging.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak outlined his plans to create a ‘smoke-free generation’ in October
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak outlined his plans to create a ‘smoke-free generation’ in October

However, after the General Election was called at the end of May, the Tobacco and Vapes Bill was not included in the legislation rushed through by MPs when Parliament was prorogued.

Mr Sunak said he was “disappointed” that the law would not make it into the statute books before the July 4 vote.

The analysis included a survey of 13,266 adults carried out by YouGov and commissioned by public health charity Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) with funding from Cancer Research UK.

Using the responses, YouGov calculated the support by parliamentary constituency ahead of the General Election.

The analysis found levels of support ranging between 57% and 74%.

The average across Britain was 69% in favour of the potential law change, while 12% opposed it.

More than half of smokers – 52% – also supported the plans while 24% opposed them, Ash said.

Ash chief executive Deborah Arnott added: “Whether red, blue, yellow or green, the public support for the ban on the sale of tobacco to anyone born after 2008 is black and white.

“This enormously popular public health measure could put our country in pole position to be the first nation to end smoking.

“This legislation is vital for the future of our children, as it will protect them from vaping as well as smoking.

“The incoming government, whoever they are, must commit to bringing it back as a priority when they announce their legislative programme in the King’s speech.”

A Conservative Party spokesperson said: “The PM has been clear about his commitment to creating a smokefree generation – reiterating it on the steps of Downing Street – and we plan to deliver on it.”

“That’s the choice at this election, between the Conservatives who have a clear plan and can deliver the bold action needed to secure a better long-term future for our country and our children, and Keir Starmer who has no plan, no convictions, and who refuses to tell you what he’d do.”

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said: “Labour remains committed to a progressive ban on smoking. We will make sure that young people today are even less likely to smoke than they are to vote Tory.”

It comes after Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Liz Kendall vowed that the party would revive the bill.

In May, she said: “If we’re elected we will make that happen and make it less likely that young people will smoke than vote Tory.”

According to Cancer Research UK, smoking causes at least 15 different types of cancer and is the biggest cause of lung cancer in the UK.

The charity’s chief executive Michelle Mitchell added: “Public support to raise the age of sale for tobacco is strong.

“All political parties must commit to introducing the new law in their manifestos.

“At the first King’s Speech, whoever wins the election must re-introduce the bill, pass it swiftly through parliament, and implement it so that we can start to reap the benefits of a smoke-free future.

“The message from people affected by cancer, health professionals and campaigners is loud and clear: we must take action to prevent future generations from a potential lifetime of addiction and disease and reduce cancer deaths.”