Read what Rishi Sunak has to say on smoking and vapes at the Tory Party Conference:
If we could break that cycle. If we could stop the start, then we would be on our way to ending the biggest cause of preventable death and disease in our country.
So I propose that in future we raise the smoking age by one year every year. That means a 14 year old today will never legally be sold a cigarette and that they and their generation can grow up smoke free.
Now we know this works. When we raised the smoking age to 18 smoking prevalence dropped by 30% in that age group. When the United States raised the age to 21 the smoking rate dropped by 39% in that age group.
Smoking places huge pressures on the NHS and cost our country £17 billion a year. We have a chance to cut cancer deaths by 1/4, significantly ease those pressures and protect our children, and we should take it.
This is not a values judgement on people who smoke. I don’t believe it would be fair to take away the rights of anyone who smoke, who currently does so, and the vote on this in Parliament will be a free vote as the bar on smoking in public places was and raising the smoking age to 18 was.
There will be no government whip. It is a matter of conscience. And I want you all and the country to know where mine is.
For a Conservative, measures that were strict choice are never easy. I know not everyone in this hall will agree with me on this. But I’ve spent a long time weighing up this decision. Simply put, unlike all other legal products there is no safe level of smoking. And what has ultimately swayed me is that none of us, not even those who smoke, want our children to grow up to be smokers. And this change can make that a reality. It will save more lives than any other decision we could take.
And as any any parent or teacher knows, one of the most worrying trends right now is the rise in vaping amongst children. One in five children have used vapes. We must act before it becomes endemic, so we will also bring forward measures to restrict the availability of vapes to our children. Looking at flavours, packaging displays and disposable vapes.
Now as Prime Minister. I have an obligation to do what I think is the right thing for our country in the long term. And as conservatives, we have never shirked that responsibility. We have always been at the front of society leading it. And when we have the tools at our disposal to deal with the biggest cause of preventable illness and death in our country to cut cancer deaths by 1/4; to significantly reduced long term pressure on our NHS; and to do for our children what we all in our heart of hearts know is right, we must act.
We must lead, Conference. We must put the next generation 1st and that is what I will do.
Watch the clip here (link to youtube)