Anti-smoking measures aimed at increasing the legal smoking age so that cigarettes are phased out completely for the next generation are being considered by the Government, reports have claimed.
According to the Guardian, Whitehall sources said that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is looking at measures similar to those brought in by New Zealand last year.
Following the reports, Downing Street did not deny that Mr Sunak could accept a recommendation that would effectively ban cigarettes for the next generation.
The measures introduced in New Zealand involved increasing the legal smoking age so that tobacco would not be sold to anyone born on or after 1 January 2009.
Last year a damning review led by Dr Javed Khan had backed England following in the footsteps of New Zealand, and recommended ‘increasing the age of sale from 18, by one year, every year until no-one can buy a tobacco product in this country’.
Dr Khan said with smoking costing the NHS £2.4 billion every year, prevention must become part of the it’s DNA and that the health service must do more to offer smokers advice and support to quit at every interaction whether through GPs, hospitals, psychiatrists, midwives, pharmacists, dentists or optometrists.
It is also understood that Mr Sunak’s leadership pledge to fine people £10 for missing a GP or hospital appointment may also be back on the table.
Mr Sunak first announced plans to introduce a £10 fine as part of his first leadership bid last summer, but he shelved the plans in October saying it was not the right time to take the policy forward.
Under Mr Sunak’s plans last year, patients would be given the ‘benefit of the doubt’ for their first missed consultation but after that would incur a £10 charge each time.
His backer at the time, Tory MP Greg Hands, said that it will be up to GPs to make the judgement as to whether to fine a patient.
But the BMA criticised these plans, saying it had always been in opposition to a policy of charging patients for missed appointments.
A spokesperson for Mr Sunak told Pulse in October that the plans had been shelved following negative feedback from GPs.
In February, a survey by Ipsos Mori found that 51% of patients would support fines for those who miss GP or hospital appointments.
And in January, former health secretary Sajid Javid said patients should pay a fee to see their GP in order to reduce demand.