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Early Cancer Institute

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Cancer Research UK and Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty are among many who have welcomed yesterday's (4th October) announcement of a new law to protect future generations of young people from the harms of smoking. Smoking is the UK’s biggest preventable killer – causing around 1 in 4 cancer deaths and 64,000 in England alone – costing the economy and wider society £17 billion each year.

In the most significant public health intervention in a generation, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has proposed new legislation that will make it an offence for anyone born on or after 1 January 2009 to be sold tobacco products – effectively raising the smoking age by a year each year until it applies to the whole population. This has the potential to phase out smoking in young people almost completely as early as 2040, saving tens of thousands of lives and saving the NHS billions of pounds. 

Michelle Mitchell, Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, urged all MPs to support the legislation saying: "Smoking is the biggest cause of cancer and places huge pressure on the NHS and the economy - with over 500 000 hospital admissions every year attributable to smoking."

Chris Whitty commented: "Becoming addicted to cigarettes in early life is one of the worst things that can happen for future health. Preventing people becoming addicted to smoking, and helping those who smoke to quit are two of the most important measures we can take to improve health."

The bold move on cigarette sales will mean is expected to mean up to 1.7 million fewer people smoke by 2075 – saving tens of thousands of lives, saving the health and care system billions of pounds and boosting the economy by up to £85 billion by 2075. It would also avoid up to 115,000 cases of strokes, heart disease, lung cancer and other lung diseases. This can only be good news.

The Prime Minister also announced a further crackdown on youth vaping with consultation proposed on restricting disposable vapes and regulating flavours and packaging to reduce their appeal to children. Vaping is rightly used by adults as a tool to quit smoking, but the health advice is clear – if you don’t smoke, don’t vape and children should never vape. It is already illegal for children to vape but in a worrying trend, youth vaping has tripled in the last three years, and more children now vape than smoke.