Date Published: 1 January 2007

Minimum legal age to purchase tobacco to rise from 16 to 18 (UK)

Law effective from October 1 2007

The government is to raise the legal minimum age to purchase tobacco from 16 to 18 years old, Public Health Minister Caroline Flint announced today.

Raising the age of buying tobacco which will come into effect from 1 October 2007, will follow closely on the heels of the introduction of smokefree public places and workplaces on 1 July 2007. A campaign to raise awareness of the imminent change in age will be launched in the New Year.

About 9% of young people aged between 11 and 15 smoke, and government is determined to reduce this figure further. Raising the legal age to 18 will make it easier for retailers to spot under-age smokers and lead to a fall in the number of teenagers who get addicted to nicotine and continue to smoke into adulthood.

Bringing the legal age for the purchase of tobacco into line with that of alcohol will reinforce the dangers of smoking to young people, as well as helping retailers comply with the law. It would also bring England and Wales into line with Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the US.

Despite the reduction in the number of underage smokers from 13% in 1996 to 9% in 2005, tobacco is still too easy for older children and young people to buy. Only 23% of those under 16 who tried to buy tobacco found it difficult to do so. Evidence shows that nearly 70% of 11 to 15 year old smokers say they buy their cigarettes from small shops such as newsagents and corner shops.

Public Health Minister Caroline Flint said:

" Smoking is dangerous at any age, but the younger people start, the more likely they are to become life-long smokers and to die early. Someone who starts smoking aged 15 is three times more likely to die of cancer due to smoking than someone who starts in their late twenties.

_ Buying cigarettes has been too easy for under 16s and this is partly due to retailers selling tobacco to those under the legal age.

_ The law change demonstrates our determination to stop this and to reduce the number of teenagers who smoke. This, in turn, will reduce the number of people with preventable diseases and the incidence of health inequalities.

_ The law change also sits well with our smokefree public spaces legislation which comes into effect from 1 July 2007, and it shows our commitment as a country to protecting our children."

The Government has made the law change after consulting with the public, the retail industry, the NHS, local authorities and other stakeholders.

Paul Ramsden, Deputy Chief Executive of the Trading Standards Institute, said:

" The Trading Standards Institute supports the change to the legal age limit on sales of tobacco. The Institute has previously called for such action based upon the growing concerns about the health risks of smoking among children and teenagers.

_ The Institute also believe that changing the age of sale in line with the age limit on, for example, alcohol sales will help eliminate confusion among retailers.

_ Across the country, trading standards colleagues already do an enormous amount of work to help educate and inform retailers of their responsibilities to comply with the law across the whole range of age-restricted products.

_ The Trading Standards Institute believe that the change in the age of sale for tobacco, will make it more difficult for young people to purchase cigarettes."

And also from today, 1 January 2007, the NHS and government buildings will become smokefree.


Source: UK Department of Health (Government Dept.)

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