The Government must Follow Science and Raise the Smoking Age to 21

Tobacco 21
PHOTO BY BBC

Smoking is one of the leading causes of diseases in the world. In 2019 about 8.7 million deaths across the world were linked to smoking. This is far more than the number of deaths linked to COVID-19 in a single year.

Most of these deaths occur among people with the lowest income. This is because most people living in poor neighborhoods are likely to smoke. In the UK, those living in the poorest parts of the country live nine years fewer than those who live in rich neighborhoods. Smoking is one of the key differences in life expectancy among these people.

Smoking can also wreak havoc on the finances of the smoker. An average smoker in the UK spends about £2,300 annually on cigarettes alone. For those with low income, this is about 10% or more of their net income. Studies show that smoking alone pushes more than 1.3 million smokers into poverty in the UK alone. On the hand, the government makes about £15 billion a year from the sale of tobacco products. Yet the same government has cut expenditure on helping smoking addicts quite by about 75% in the last decade alone.

It is because of these that Javed Khan OBE was tasked by the Health Improvement and Disparities office to conduct a review of the government’s plan to make England smoking free by end of the decade (2030). The landmark report just released has identified the interventions the government should take to reduce smoking and discourage new uptake of the habit.

One of the most important steps the government has been argued to take is raising the smoking age to 21 years. Although it is expected that the ministers will reject this proposal, estimates show that raising the smoking age will reduce the number of smokers in the country aged 18-20 years from the current 364,000 to about 255,000 in the first year alone.  This regulation will then prevent another 18,000 a year would be smokers from taking up the habit. This will go a long way in making England a smoking-free country.

The idea of raising the smoking age is supported by studies from other countries which show that it’s a huge success. For example, the Federal government of the United States instituted the T21 regulations in 2019 which raised the minimum age for buying tobacco products to 21 years.

Data from the country shows that these regulations have reduced the prevalence of smoking among the youth by over 30%. Making it hard for the young to obtain cigarettes can help them avoid smoking and eventually never pick up the habit.

Combining ideas such as raising the minimum smoking age and making e-cigarettes easily available can help reduce the number of existing smokers and stop new ones. Scientific evidence shows that e-cigarettes are instrumental in helping smokers quit. E-cigarettes offer smokers a familiar sensation that allows them to easily replace smoking and eventually quit. Studies show that switching to e-cigarettes saves up to a million lives a year. It is therefore important that the government should act and make access to these products easier for smokers.

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Author: joyce

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