Government campaign highlights change in tobacco age laws

In collaboration with the Press Association

The Department of Health has launched a new campaign to increase awareness of the forthcoming changes to tobacco selling laws.

As of October 1st, new government legislation will increase the age of sale for tobacco from 16 to 18 years - a move which should help to cut the number of young smokers.

Figures show that nearly a quarter of England's population are regular smokers by the age of 15. It is hoped that raising the age for tobacco sales will make it harder for young people to acquire cigarettes and become addicted.

Public health minister Dawn Primarolo revealed that half of all teenage smokers will eventually die from tobacco-related disease if they continue to smoke throughout adulthood.

"Raising the minimum age at which teenagers can be sold tobacco products will reduce the availability of cigarettes and could therefore discourage young people from taking up smoking in the first place," she said.

The government has launched a new website to alert retailers to the new tobacco purchase age which, if ignored, could land retailers with a fine of up to £2,500.

James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, commented: "Retailers will be the frontline defence against under-18s buying tobacco and this campaign will help them to do this job."

The move follows the recent ban on smoking in public places, which has provided many people with an added incentive to give up smoking and was hailed by health secretary Alan Johnson as "the single most important public health legislation for a generation".

The link between smoking and cancer was first confirmed in the 1950s, and nine out of ten cases of lung cancer are caused by smoking.