Smoking cigarette

It comes as Javed Khan today published an independent review into the government’s ambition to make England smoke-free by 2030

The ACS has warned that a newly proposed annual age increase for tobacco could disrupt age restriction policies currently in stores.

It comes as Javed Khan, the former CEO of Barnardo’s, today published an independent review into the government’s ambition to make England smoke-free by 2030.

The review focuses on a series of interventions that Khan believes are necessary to reduce the smoking population in the UK to 5% by 2030. The review warns that without these additional measures, England is set to miss its target by at least seven years.

The recommendations include introducing a New Zealand-style system that would see the minimum age for tobacco sales rise from 18 by one year, every year, with the intention that eventually no one will be able to buy tobacco in England.

“Increasing the legal age of sale by one year every year would disrupt the very effective measures put in place to enforce an age restriction at 18, which applies not just for tobacco but to many of the products local shops sell,” said ACS CEO James Lowman.

“We need to look at how this would work in practice, but it looks like it would be operationally very challenging for small shops. Underage smokers aren’t buying tobacco from shops, who have an excellent record of implementing the Challenge25 policy, but from friends, family and the black market.”

A spokesman for the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association said: “At the age of 18, adults are well aware of the risks associated with smoking and should be free to access a legal product. Mr Khan’s recommendation that the legal age to smoke should be increased by one year, every year, will lead adult smokers towards unregulated and untaxed products from illegal channels.”

The review calls on the government to invest £125m per year on smoke-free policies, with recommendations for a ‘polluter pays’ industry levy and corporation tax surcharges to fund the investment.

Among other recommendations, Khan proposes introducing a tobacco licence for retailers, to limit its availability, as well as raising the cost of tobacco duties by at least 30% across all tobacco products.

Lowman said: “The proposals for licensing tobacco retailers need to be fleshed out, with clarity over what this measure would be trying to achieve. Licensing restrictions that stop new entrants from entering the market damage investment and the provision of all the products and services we sell.

“Ultimately, those who are selling tobacco illegally now without being caught would just continue to do so without seeking a licence.”

Khan has also suggested offering vaping as a substitute for smoking alongside information on the benefits of switching, including healthcare professionals.

The review says: “The government should accelerate the path to presceibed vapes and provide free ‘Swap to Stop’ packs in deprived communities, while preventing young people’s uptake of vapes by banning child-friendly cartoon packaging and descriptions.”

A spokeswoman for Imperial Tobacco said: “We share the government’s long-term commitment to vaping, and are pleased to see further recognition of the role that vaping can play in support of public health policy.”

The ACS welcomed a recommendation to dedicate an additional £15m per year of funding to local trading standards to boost enforcement.

“The proposed additional funding for local authorities to enforce against those selling illicit tobacco products is welcome, and is something that we’ve highlighted as a necessary priority for government for a long time, but we need to see this implemented and we need more than £15m investment to close the £2.3bn tax gap caused by illegal tobacco sales,” said Lowman.

“Unless we tackle the black market, the recommendations to further regulate the sale of tobacco through legitimate businesses will not be effective.”