• June 12, 2024

Campaigners Against Ban on U.K. Cig Sales

 Campaigners Against Ban on U.K. Cig Sales
Photo: Taco Tuinstra

Campaigners have slammed the suggestion that a future Labour government could ban the sale of cigarettes to eradicate smoking by 2030.

Speaking to the BBC, shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said Labour would consult on banning the sale of cigarettes.

Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ rights group Forest, condemned the idea.

“The health risks of smoking are well known, but it’s a legitimate habit that millions of adults enjoy,” he said. “Banning the sale of cigarettes to future generations won’t stop people smoking. It would merely drive the sale of tobacco underground and into the hands of criminal gangs.”

Clark pointed out that current U.K. smoking rates are the lowest on record and an increasing number of smokers are switching voluntarily to reduced-risk products like e-cigarettes without government intervention.

“Given all the problems facing the NHS [National Health Service] and the country at large, it’s laughable to think that tackling smoking might be considered a priority for a future Labour government,” said Clark.

During the BBC interview, Streeting said more radical options were needed as the U.K. was set to miss its target of being “smoke-free” by 2030.

“One of the things that was recommended to the government in one of their own reviews was phasing out the sale of cigarettes altogether over time. We will be consulting on that and a whole range of other measures,” said Streeting.

Streeting said he would pay close attention to the results of a recently announced law in New Zealand that makes it illegal to sell tobacco to anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 2009.

Under the new rules, which take effect this year, the country’s smoking age of 18 would be raised year by year until it applied to the whole population. Beginning in 2023, those under 15 would be barred from buying cigarettes for the rest of their lives.

“I am genuinely curious,” he said. “If we are going to get the NHS back on track, we need to focus on public health.” 

Streeting’s comments follow a review ordered by Sajid Javid when he was health secretary, which listed 15 measures to give the U.K. its “best chance” of hitting a national target of making the U.K. smoke-free by 2030.