• Saturday, June 22, 2024


Javed Khan-led review considers banning under-25s buying cigarettes

Dr Javed Khan

By: Pramod Thomas

AN independent review of the government’s ambition to make England smoke-free by 2030 is considering a ban on under-25s buying cigarettes, The Times reported. 

Javed Khan, a former chief executive of the children’s charity Barnardo’s, is leading the review. He is now scrutinising whether national action on smoking goes far enough, the report added.

According to him, the target would not be met if “nothing different is done” in the approach to cigarettes. Khan will report his findings on April

Barnado's Charity Shop
Barnado’s Charity Shop


In his review, which has been commissioned by health secretary Sajid Javid, Khan said he was being “bold and brave” and had questioned whether the target of 5 per cent smoking prevalence by 2030 was ambitious enough.

The review is targeting key groups, including pregnant women, young people and those from deprived communities.

banning under-25s buying cigarettes

Smoking rates across the country have been falling steadily over the past 20 years and cigarette use dropped from 15.8 per cent in 2019 to 14.5 per cent in 2020, according to the Office for National Statistics.

However, there are still six million smokers in England. Tobacco remains the single largest cause of preventable death and 64,000 people died from conditions related to smoking in 2019.

“A culture of thinking the “job is done” when it came to tackling smoking rates had led to some avenues of help being neglected,” Khan told The Times. “We are thinking seriously about the age of sale,”

Smoking among the 18-30 group in England shot up by 25 per cent during the first lockdown, the equivalent of 652,000 more young adults smoking compared with before the pandemic.

Globally, New Zealand has some of the strictest smoking laws. It has introduced a progressive year-on-year age ban so that anyone born after 2008 will not be able to buy cigarettes or tobacco products in their lifetime.

The review is also looking at whether advertising campaigns on social media platforms used by young people, such as TikTok and Instagram, could be key to deterring them from smoking.

Just look at the Covid experience, mass marketing has a big effect, it really works. The government went hell for leather, it made an enormous difference in vaccination rates. So why not do something like that again, if we really want to save people’s lives,” Khan was quoted as saying by The Times.

Up to 10 per cent of pregnant women still smoke at the point of birth and Khan said pilot schemes that offered women financial incentives to quit needed to be escalated.

According to the report, schemes for smokers in social housing are among the many community initiatives being explored by the review.

Smoking in Medway, Kent, accounts for 37 per cent of deaths associated with respiratory disease, and 26 per cent of all deaths from cancer, The Times report said.

Medway’s Stop Smoking Service provides a range of free support for people who want to quit. This includes face-to-face consultations, specialist online support and a text messaging service.

The council launched an e-cigarette pilot scheme in collaboration with social housing, which aims to tackle the stark health disparities associated with tobacco use.

The scheme enables residents to access services they may not have used previously. Smoking rates in Medway have fallen from 25.5 per cent of the population in 2012 to 12.8 per cent, according to the latest figures.

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