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Smoking age raised

2nd January 2007

05102006_teenagesmoking1.jpgThe government has announced more plans to curb smoking in the UK by increasing the legal age for buying tobacco from 16 to 18. 

The change to the 100-year-old rule will come into play in October and will follow the ban on smoking in public places which will be enforced from the beginning of July.  Nearly one in ten young people aged between 11 and 15 smoke and a person who takes up the habit at 15 is three times more likely to die of smoking –related cancer than someone who starts in their late 20s.

The government hopes that by increasing the legal age for buying tobacco, retailers will be able to spot a customer who is under-age more easily.  The legal age for buying tobacco is already set at 18 in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.  Caroline Flint, the public health minister, said, "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 charity, Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), has welcomed the new law but has called for tougher sanctions on retailers who sell tobacco to under-age smokers.  Health campaigners are also urging the government to provide more services to help young people quit.

Smoking shortens a person's life by an average of 10 years and about 106,000 Britons die from smoking-related diseases each year. The NHS currently spends about £1.7 billion each year on treating smoking-related diseases.

 

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