Plan to raise smoking age to 21 to be unveiled amid UK government divisions | Smoking

Plans to raise the legal smoking age to 21 and impose new taxes on tobacco companies could be announced on Thursday, amid splits in government over the sweeping recommendations.

The deferred review by Javed Khan, the former chief executive of Barnardo’s, will be published on Thursday. It was commissioned by Health Secretary Sajid Javid.

Khan denied speculation from some sources that the delay in the review was due to ministers’ refusal and said there had been additional work to be done. Challenges with the government network also played a role in its delay.

However, the Guardian understands that there is skepticism within the government about changes to the legal age limit, as well as further tax hikes. The plan is subject to consultation after the details are published.

Thursday’s launch, which underlines the independence of the review, will be attended by Chief Medical Officer Sir Chris Whitty, Health Minister Maggie Throup and Shadow Health Minister Andrew Gwynne.

An industry source said the first version of the review had been ‘very sweeping’, including a tobacco tax and an option to consider New Zealand’s approach of raising the age of purchase for one year, each year, with the aim of completely banning tobacco sales. .

A government source said there was clearly an option for ministers not to accept the findings of the review. A second source said that “a general point of principle, the opinion has always been that 18 is widely recognized as the age of adulthood”.

David Canzini, Downing Street’s influential deputy chief of staff, has advised Boris Johnson to get rid of as many policies as possible who might be unpopular with MPs or traditional Tory voters, something his former boss Sir Lynton Crosby previously described as getting the “barnacles out of the boat”.

After parts of Johnson’s obesity strategy were scrapped, Javid was keen to keep the target of making the UK smoke-free by 2030, which also has the potential to be scrapped as a policy. of the ‘nanny state’ that Tory backbenchers oppose.

In an interview ahead of his review, Khan warned that the target of having only 5% smokers by 2030 would not be achieved without the government intervening to restrict sales.

There are 6 million smokers in England and tobacco use has increased by 25% among those under 30 during the pandemic, an increase of over 600,000 smokers in this age group. Overall, rates have fallen over the past two decades to less than 15%.

New Zealand has introduced a phased ban on cigarette and tobacco sales, meaning anyone born after 2008 will not be able to buy the products.

Gwynne, who took a keen interest in the review, said it could be a missed opportunity for change. “The Conservative government appears to have stifled its own public health agenda,” he said. “That’s it for ‘health week’.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: ‘Tackling issues such as tobacco use is a priority for the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, and a key part of the program government leveling. That’s why we’ve launched the independent review of our bold ambition to make England smoke-free by 2030.

“The review will provide independent, evidence-based advice on potential interventions that will inform our approach to tackling the stark health disparities associated with tobacco use – and we look forward to seeing the report in due course. desired.”

Johnson is aiming for a new focus on health and the NHS this week as he fights to save his job as prime minister.

At his cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning, hours after winning a no-confidence vote in his leadership, Johnson again argued for National Insurance increases aimed at tackling the NHS backlog – pointing out the difference faster diagnosis made to post-Covid waiting lists for treatment.


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Edward L. Robinett