This week, Rishi Sunak set out plans to create a ‘smoke-free generation’ by effectively increasing the legal age for purchasing tobacco by one year, every year.
The PM argued that his decision was “a matter of conscience” but it also can’t be a coincidence that the move appears a popular one in the court of public opinion. His speech at this week’s Conservative party conference was the firing of the starting gun for campaigning on what will be a general election next year, after all.
The plan does, however, seem to have been rushed into being. And you have to question how it will work in practice in the longer term.
The law should be easy enough to enforce for the first few years. The legal age for buying tobacco is currently 18, but many retailers run with a Challenge 25 policy, so proving you are 19, 20 or 21 depending on the year shouldn’t be too tricky.
But cast forward a bit further into the future – my sympathies will be the shopworker in 2043 asking customers to prove they are over 34. Maybe Challenge 25 will have to increase by one each year as well.