King Charles has announced plans to incrementally raise the legal smoking age in the UK by one year annually. This means that a 14-year-old today will never reach the legal age to purchase cigarettes.
The monarch aims to create a “smoke-free generation” with this legislation, aligning with Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s earlier proposal. Sunak emphasized the importance of breaking the cycle of smoking initiation, as most smokers start before the age of 20.
Currently, the legal age to buy tobacco products in the UK is 18, a regulation implemented in 2007. Smoking indoors in public spaces has also been prohibited nationwide since the same year. Vaping, however, is permitted for those 18 and older, with no universal restrictions on public usage.
The proposed plan mirrors measures recently enacted in New Zealand, where tobacco sales were prohibited for those born after January 1, 2009. The UK may adopt a similar approach, effectively making it impossible for the next generation to legally purchase cigarettes.
Additionally, single-use vapes are anticipated to be banned due to concerns about their appeal to children.
These measures, however, have been met with opposition from groups like the Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco (Forest), who argue that they constitute a form of “creeping prohibition” and infringe on personal choice. Former Prime Minister Liz Truss also voiced her disagreement, advocating for fewer bans.