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The smokefree 2030 ambition for England

In 2019, the government published its green paper on preventative health; Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s. Here, it announced an ambition for England to become ‘smokefree’ by 2030 – achieved when adult smoking prevalence falls to 5% or less.

The Khan Review

The government commissioned Javed Khan, former CEO of children’s charity Barnardo’s to carry out a review into the government’s ambition to make England smokefree by 2030. Mr Khan published his independent review, the Khan Review: making smoking obsolete, in June 2022. The review found that “without further action, England will miss the smokefree 2030 target by at least 7 years, and the poorest areas in society will not meet it until 2044”.

The review set out a package of 15 recommendations aimed at supporting the 2030 ambition. This included four “critical must dos” for the Government, centred on increasing investment in smokefree 2030 policies, increasing the age of sale of tobacco by one year every year, promoting vaping as a smoking cessation tool, and improving the prevention of ill health by offering smokers advice and support to quit at every interaction within the NHS.

Raising the age of sale of tobacco for those born on or after 1 January 2009

In October 2023, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak set out plans to introduce legislation to prohibit children born on or after 1 January 2009 from legally buying cigarettes in England. This would effectively raise the smoking age by one year, every year, until it applies to the whole population.

The government would also prohibit people above the age of sale from purchasing tobacco products for people below the age of sale (‘proxy purchases’).

The proposal formed part of the government’s ambition to create the first ‘smokefree generation’, discussed below.

Creating the first ‘smokefree generation’

In October 2023, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) published its policy paper, Stopping the start: our new plan to create a smokefree generation, where the government set out an intention to create the first ‘smokefree generation’.

The government introduced several proposals to reduce youth vaping, including restricting vape flavours, regulating vape packaging and point of sale displays, and restricting the sale of disposable vapes.

The government also committed to funding several initiatives to improve smoking cessation support, including an additional £70 million annually to support local authority led stop smoking services, and £45 million over two years to roll out the national ‘Swap to Stop’ scheme, supporting people to stop smoking with the free provision of a vape kit and behavioural support.

Consulting on the new proposals

The Department of Health and Social Care launched a consultation on the proposals set out in the policy paper on 12 October 2023, and is inviting responses until 6 December 2023.

Specifically, DHSC is seeking views on introducing new legislation to raise the age of sale for tobacco, further regulating vaping to reduce its appeal to children, and introducing new powers for local authorities to issue fixed penalty notices to enforce age of sale legislation for tobacco products and vapes.

A New Major Conditions Strategy

In January 2023, Health Secretary Steve Barclay set out government’s intention to develop and publish a Major Conditions Strategy. Neil O’Brien, Minister for Primary Care and Public Health, has said “tobacco and tobacco control will be threaded through the major conditions strategy”.

In August 2023, the DHSC published its policy paper, Major conditions strategy: a case for change and our strategic framework. The paper sets out areas of the government’s focus for the final and forthcoming strategy.

Chapter 2 of this paper focussed on primary and secondary prevention. It identified smoking as the biggest single cause of preventable illness and death and highlighted the government’s proposals to support people to stop smoking and consult on further tobacco controls.

The government has said the strategy will be published in early 2024.

Further research from the Commons Library

Further Library research is available on the tobacco and vaping hub.

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