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RCP welcomes prime minister's vision to create a 'smokefree generation'

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has welcomed the prime minister’s announcement at Conservative party conference to create a ‘smokefree generation’ through a series of measures including a new law which will end the sale of cigarettes to those born on or after 1 January 2009.

In response to the prime minister's announcement, Professor Sanjay Agrawal, the RCP's special adviser on tobacco, said: "Smoking is the biggest cause of death and illness in the UK, so we strongly welcome the initiatives announced to reduce the number of children and young people taking it up. Creating a smoke-free generation by protecting young people from the harms of tobacco alongside significant funding to help the millions of existing smokers to quit is the right vision.

“The commitment to allocate funding for initiatives aimed at helping existing smokers quit is a huge step in the right direction. It is this resolute prevention-first policy-making that will substantially enhance public health outcomes and significantly reduce demands on the NHS.

“Equally, we firmly support the government's decision to address the appeal and accessibility of vaping products to children. We await the detail of the government consultation on this later this month. We know that e-cigarettes are an effective tool in the fight against tobacco dependency and are pleased to see measures being taken to curb their misuse among young people who have never smoked. It is key though that these measures are implemented in a way that avoids the potential unintended consequence of discouraging adult smokers from quitting. We also strongly welcome the government committing to close loopholes which allow children to procure free samples and buy non-nicotine vapes.”

“We will now analyse the detail in the government’s Stopping the Start paper, but we are encouraged by the bold vision outlined in the Prime Minister’s announcement. With smoking causing multiple harms including one in four cancer deaths, lung disease, heart disease, dementia and stroke, it has the potential for far-reaching positive effects on the nation’s health.”

The RCP stands at the forefront of a decades-long battle against the health risks posed by tobacco consumption. These trace back to our pivotal 1962 report, which was the first to definitively establish the link between smoking and ill health. Since then, we have continued to advocate tirelessly for measures to reduce smoking rates, improve the well-being of the population and, in turn, reduce the avoidable demands placed on the healthcare service through tobacco use.

The initiatives announced by the prime minister align closely with the recommendations laid out in the RCP’s 2021 Smoking & Health report. In this report, we recommended restoring mass media campaign funding, offering opt-out treatment services at any point of NHS contact, and encouraging the inclusion of e-cigarettes in all treatment pathways for adult tobacco dependency.

The RCP has also called for measures designed to limit the appeal of vaping products to children, including price increases for disposable vaping products, restrictions on naming flavours, and the use of plain packaging, as outlined in our response to the youth vaping consultation earlier this year. We also said that the broad restriction of access to regulated vaping products may have the unintended consequence of limiting access to vaping products for people trying to stop smoking and former smokers relapsing to smoking. For example, a wholesale limiting of flavours may reduce the number of adults successfully quitting tobacco using vaping products, as we know that the use of flavours by adults trying to quit smoking is an integral part of the effectiveness of vaping as a quit aid.