Minimum Legal Age To Purchase Tobacco To Rise From 16 To 18, UK
The UK government is to raise the legal minimum age to purchase tobacco
from 16 to 18 years old, Public Health Minister Caroline Flint
Raising the age of buying tobacco which will come into effect from 1
October 2007, will follow closely on the heels of the introduction
of smokefree public places and workplaces on 1 July 2007. A campaign
to raise awareness of the imminent change in age will be launched in
the New Year.
About nine per cent of young people aged between 11 and 15 smoke, and
government is determined to reduce this figure further. Raising the
legal age to 18 will make it easier for retailers to spot under-age
smokers and lead to a fall in the number of teenagers who get
addicted to nicotine and continue to smoke into adulthood.
Bringing the legal age for the purchase of tobacco into line with
that of alcohol will reinforce the dangers of smoking to young
people, as well as helping retailers comply with the law. It would
also bring England and Wales into line with Canada, Australia, New
Zealand and the US.
Despite the reduction in the number of underage smokers from 13 per
cent in 1996 to 9 per cent in 2005, tobacco is still too easy for
older children and young people to buy. Only 23 per cent of those
under 16 who tried to buy tobacco found it difficult to do so.
Evidence shows that nearly 70 per cent of 11 to 15 year old smokers
say they buy their cigarettes from small shops such as newsagents and
Public Health Minister Caroline Flint said:
"Smoking is dangerous at any age, but the younger people start, the
more likely they are to become life-long smokers and to die early.
Someone who starts smoking aged 15 is three times more likely to die
of cancer due to smoking than someone who starts in their late
"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
"The law change also sits well with our smokefree public spaces
legislation which comes into effect from 1 July 2007, and it shows
our commitment as a country to protecting our children."
The Government has made the law change after consulting with the
public, the retail industry, the NHS, local authorities and other
Paul Ramsden, Deputy Chief Executive of the Trading Standards
"The Trading Standards Institute supports the change to the legal age
limit on sales of tobacco. The Institute has previously called for
such action based upon the growing concerns about the health risks of
smoking among children and teenagers.
"The Institute also believe that changing the age of sale in line
with the age limit on, for example, alcohol sales will help eliminate
confusion among retailers.
"Across the country, trading standards colleagues already do an
enormous amount of work to help educate and inform retailers of their
responsibilities to comply with the law across the whole range of
"The Trading Standards Institute believe that the change in the age
of sale for tobacco, will make it more difficult for young people to
And also from today, 1 January 2007, the NHS and government buildings
will become smokefree.
The raising of the minimum age for buying tobacco from 16 to 18 will
be effective from 1 October 2007.
The legal age for the purchase of tobacco products has been 16 since
1908. The current law controlling the sale of tobacco to children
under 16 is set out in the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 as
amended by the Children and Young Persons (Protection from Tobacco)
The Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use Among Young People in England
Survey 2004 showed that nearly 70 per cent of 11 to 15 year old
smokers say they buy their cigarettes from small shops such as
newsagents and corner shops. The decision to increase the age from 16
to 18 follows a public consultation this summer.