Today, during his first State Opening to Parliament since his coronation, King Charles III officially approved the Tobacco and Vapes Bill, announced at the Conservative Party conference earlier this year. This signifies a significant measure for the future of public health in the United Kingdom. 

Addressing Parliament, King Charles declared, “My administration will introduce laws to establish a smoke-free generation by restricting the sale of tobacco, ensuring that children ages fourteen and below can never access cigarettes. Additionally, the sale and promotion of e-cigarettes to minors will be tightly regulated”. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak heralded this decision, asserting that “a fourteen-year-old today will never have the opportunity to legally purchase cigarettes”.  This progressive policy aims to eliminate tobacco consumption for future generations by closely controlling its availability. 

The exact details of how this act will be enforced has not yet been revealed, however it is likely to follow a similar structure to the recent ban, in New Zealand, of the sale of tobacco products to anyone born on or after January 1, 2009. The UK Government is likely to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products by one year, every year meaning that no individuals born on or after January 1, 2009 will be able to legally acquire tobacco products. However, Sunak clarified that this ban does not criminalise smoking, meaning if tobacco products are acquired, for instance abroad, individuals who fall under the legal age can still legally smoke them.

There are many reasons for the government’s decision on the implementation of this act, most notably, reducing the amount of pressure that smoking-related illnesses place on the NHS with these illnesses costing the NHS £2.4billion annually. Rishi Sunak made the immense claim in his speech last week that stricter regulations on smoking would “cut cancer deaths by a quarter”. 

Despite minor negative backlash, the majority of the UK seems to be in agreement that the bill looks to be a major positive step for the future of the UK. The implementation of this Bill is anticipated to result in a substantial decrease in smoking rates, with a projected reduction of 1.7 million smokers by 2075. Remarkably, it holds the potential to eradicate smoking entirely among young individuals by 2040.