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MPs demand rise in smoking age to 21 to end ‘tobacco epidemic’

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Stop smoking The APPG says more than three quarters of the public support the Government's Smokefree 2030 ambition

Members of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health have called on the Government to consider raising the smoking age from 18 to 21. It was included in a tough package of proposals, including a charge on the tobacco companies to fund smoking cessation programmes, to enable the Government reach its objective of a smokefree UK by 2030. The cross-party group of MPs and peers warned the Government that it can only build back 'better and fairer' from COVID-19 by ending smoking.

To this end, the group has demanded a targeted programme of smoking cessation programmes among communities where smoking does the most damage including those who are unemployed, individuals living in social housing, or those who have a mental health condition or are pregnant. This is to be financed by a ‘polluter pays’ amendment to the forthcoming Health and Social Care bill aimed at the tobacco manufacturers

The group’s chair, Conservative MP Bob Blackman said: "Our report sets out measures which will put us on track to achieve the government's ambition to end smoking by 2030, but they can't be delivered without funding.

‘Tobacco manufacturers make extreme profits selling highly addictive, lethal products, while government coffers are bare because of COVID-19.

‘The manufacturers have the money, they should be made to pay to end the epidemic.’

The proposals were welcomed by anti-smoking groups. ‘We all applauded when the government announced its ambition for a smokefree 2030. But that was two years ago, the time has now come to deliver,’ said Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH.

‘Currently smoking rates are not declining nearly fast enough. If, as called for by the APPG, the recommendations in its report are implemented by 2022 we can get on track to make smoking obsolete by 2030.’

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