MPs call for legal smoking age to be raised to 21

Taxes on tobacco products should also be raised to reduce their affordability and put people off, the group has said.
Taxes on tobacco products should also be raised to reduce their affordability and put people off, the group has said.

The legal age to buy cigarettes should be raised from 18 to 21 it's been said.

MPs and peers are also calling for tobacco giants to be charged for the impact they have on society, with the millions raised channelled into stop-smoking initiatives .

Taxes on tobacco products should also be raised to reduce their affordability and put people off, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health said.

They said the plans are part of efforts to deliver a "smoke-free generation."

Bob Blackman MP (Chairman of the APPG) said: “Smoking remains the leading cause of premature death and health inequalities. Ratcheting up tobacco regulation further and faster is essential to achieve the Government’s vision for prevention, to increase healthy life expectancy by five years by 2035 while reducing inequalities between the richest and poorest in society.”

They are also calling for:

Making the polluter pay - A charge on the tobacco transnationals designed to deliver a fixed sum annually to the Government to fund high impact, evidence-based measures to encourage smokers to quit, and discourage youth uptake.

Reducing the affordability of tobacco - By increasing the annual tobacco tax escalator with an added uplift for hand-rolled tobacco (currently much more lightly taxed) to prevent down-trading detrimental to public revenues and public health.

Retail licensing - To support enforcement activity against underage sales and illicit tobacco, by banning the sale of tobacco from unlicensed retailers or those who break the law.

Increased funding for education campaigns - Using the charge on the industry to fund targeted campaigns to increase attempts to quit, and discourage uptake, using social and mass media.

Government mandated pack inserts to support quitting - A cheap and effective means of supplementing on-pack warnings with messaging encouraging smokers to quit.

Enhanced guidelines on smoking on screen (film and TV) - To reduce the exposure of young people to images of smoking which have been proven to increase uptake of smoking.

Meanwhile "Big Tobacco" firms should be charged a mandatory "polluter pays" levy to pay for the costs of tobacco control, which could raise £150 million, and taxes on tobacco should be raised to 5% above inflation, with an equal surcharge added to both loose tobacco and manufactured cigarettes.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health - which assists the group, said: "Legislation to strictly regulate smoking used to be considered controversial and extreme by all mainstream political parties. Thanks to the dedication of the All Party Group, working closely with civil society, that's no longer the case.