‘Bold action’ needed as two thirds of Welsh public support smoke-free generation

The majority of people in Wales want smoking to be stubbed out for younger generations, according to research. Credit: PA Images

A smoke-free generation is backed by the majority of the Welsh population, according to a recent poll. 

Action on Smoking and Health Wales (ASH Wales) said almost two thirds of people in Wales want the legal age for buying tobacco to be increased.

The planned legislation, announced in the King’s Speech this autumn, would mean anyone born after January 1 2009 would never legally be sold cigarettes. 

With just over a week to go until a public consultation on the measures closes, 62% of people in Wales support the move, which would in effect impose a lifetime ban on young people ever smoking

More than half of smokers in Wales want to quit at some point, according to research. Credit: PA Images

According to the poll, 15% of people oppose the measure.

The Welsh Government cannot, however, raise the age on the sale of tobacco without the UK Government passing legislation.

If brought in, the step would not see young people criminalised for smoking. Legislation would instead extend the existing legal obligation not to sell tobacco to those who are underage, with the legal age for buying cigarettes raised by one year, every year, from 2027.

Suzanne Cass, Chief Executive of ASH Wales, said: “No other consumer product comes with the devastating harms of tobacco and smoking kills two in three of its long term users.

“More than five and a half thousand people in Wales die every year from smoking and tobacco costs the Welsh NHS more than £300m a year. None of this will change without bold action.”

  • Louise Elliott from ASH said: "Smoking isn't just a habit, smoking is an addiction."

Louise Elliott, Head of Policy at ASH, told ITV Wales, "No one who currently legally smokes will have that right taken away from them and children in this legislation will not be criminalised.

"But what it does is it reminds us that smoking isn't just a habit, smoking is an addiction and what addiction does is it takes away an individual's ability to choose. So what this legislation is about is protecting children.

"We know that 77% of smokers in Wales tell us that they started smoking before they were 18 years of age and the vast majority of them wish that they had never started, and half of them want to give up."

Ms Elliott added: "This is about protecting future generations and giving them the choice to live in a smoke-free society."

Research previously carried out by ASH Wales claims nearly 15% of adults in Wales smoke, with people in the most deprived areas more than twice as likely to pick up the habit as those in more affluent areas.

The organisation also found more than half of smokers in Wales want to quit at some point.

The smokers' rights group Forest has condemned the announcement of legislation to ban the sale of cigarettes to future generations in the UK saying "valuable" parliamentary time is being "wasted".

Its Director Simon Clark told ITV Wales: “Banning the sale of tobacco to future generations of adults won't stop young people from smoking. 

“It will simply drive them into the arms of illegal traders and criminal gangs. 

"If you're old enough at 18 to vote, drive a car, join the army, and purchase alcohol, you're old enough to buy tobacco.”

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