Minimum tobacco age to rise

In collaboration with the Press Association

The minimum age to buy tobacco products in England and Wales will rise from 16 to 18 in October, the Department of Health has announced.

Around nine per cent of teenagers aged between 11 and 15 smoke and raising the minimum age for tobacco sales is expected to make it easier for retailers to spot the underage.

The law change will come just months after the introduction of smoke-free legislation in enclosed public spaces.

"We welcome an increase in the age of purchase in England and Wales as a measure aimed at reducing the availability of cigarettes to young people," said Jean King, director of tobacco control at Cancer Research UK.

"But it is imperative that the law is properly enforced from the outset. This should include an effective communication campaign for both retailers and the general public; a robust licensing system; and penalties that reprimand retailers who flout the law.

"Changing the age of purchase should be part of a comprehensive strategy regulating many aspects of tobacco products such as product availability, price, packaging and promotion."

The increase brings England and Wales into line with Canada, Australia, the US and New Zealand. Scotland and Northern Ireland are expected to make similar announcements soon.