Individuals under the age of 21 may be banned from buying cigarettes and flavored vapor products as part of a plan to curb smoking in the U.K., reports the Daily Mail.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid is reportedly considering the change to help reach the government’s goal of becoming smoke-free by 2030.
“Smoking cuts lives short and costs the NHS billions—we will publish a plan later this year to set out how we will help the country become smoke-free by 2030,” said a Department of Health spokesperson.
Further advertising bans are also reportedly being considered. E-cigarettes are already banned from promotion on TV, radio, online and in print.
Raising the purchase age would be “very, very welcome news,” according to Mary Foy, chair of the Westminster All-Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking. “We know that generally adults don’t take up smoking. It’s children and young people who start and unfortunately get hooked, often for life. Studies show most adults regret ever starting in the first place.”
Simon Clark, director of smokers’ group Forest, rejected the idea of raising the tobacco purchase age. “If you can have sex at 16, join the army and drive a car at 17, you should be allowed to buy tobacco at 18,” he said. “In the eyes of the law, you are an adult at 18. Treating young adults like children insults their intelligence. You certainly don’t have to be 21 to know that smoking is potentially harmful. It’s drummed into every child from an early age.”
“Outlawing the sale of tobacco to anyone under 21 won’t stop young people smoking,” he said. “It will simply drive tobacco underground, bypassing legitimate retailers and enriching criminals who won’t stop to ask for proof of age. Far from protecting younger consumers, it will expose many more to illicit and counterfeit tobacco, origin unknown. For some, it may even make smoking cool again.”