Headlines: January 4th, 2007



Local authority Trading Standards Officers have welcomed the move to increase the legal age for buying tobacco from 16 to 18. They believe it will reduce confusion among retailers as well as having public health benefits. The change will not come into force until October but a campaign to raise awareness of it will begin shortly.

Figures show that almost one in ten young people aged from 11 to 15 smokes and the Government believes raising the legal age for buying cigarettes will make it easier for shop staff to spot under-age smokers, leading to a fall in the number of teenagers becoming addicted to nicotine and continuing to smoke as adults. Public Health Minister Caroline Flint said she also believed that bringing the legal age for the purchase of tobacco into line with that for alcohol would underline the dangers of smoking to young people.

“Buying cigarettes has been too easy for under 16s and this is partly due to retailers selling tobacco to those under the legal age,” she said and added, “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 health inequalities.”

The announcement of the change in the law follows consultations with local authorities, the National Health Service, retailers and others and the move is supported by the Trading Standards Institute. Its Deputy Chief Executive, Paul Ramsden, said they had been calling for such a change because of the growing concerns about the health risks of smoking by children and teenagers. The Institute also believed bringing the legal age into line with that for alcohol sales would 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 age-restricted products. The Trading Standards Institute believe that the change in the age of sale for tobacco, will make it more difficult for young people to purchase cigarettes,” he said.