In this way, the minimum smoking age would de facto be raised by one year every year until the entire population is affected in the long term. “There is no safe age for smoking,” Sunak argued when announcing the legislative initiative. It can be guaranteed that all children and young people born after January 1, 2009 “can never legally be sold a cigarette and that they and their generation can grow up smoke-free.” The same applies to subsequent generations.

At the same time, the government assures that smoking should not be criminalized. Since the minimum age for buying cigarettes should be gradually raised, anyone “who can legally buy cigarettes today” can continue to do so in the future. Only today’s young people should remain non-smokers for the rest of their lives.

Currently the minimum age to buy cigarettes in the UK is 18. Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death and the cause of about one in four cancer deaths, according to government data. According to the information, the costs that smoking causes, especially for the health system, amount to the equivalent of almost 20 billion euros per year.

Before the first parliamentary debate on Tuesday, several – including prominent – members of Sunak’s Conservative party turned against the plan. However, the law is likely to pass parliament thanks to support from the opposition.