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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 June, 2005, 10:14 GMT 11:14 UK
Smoking age 'should rise to 18'
Youths smoking
A BBC poll found most people backed a minimum age of 21
A group of almost 50 backbench MPs wants ministers to raise the minimum age at which people can buy cigarettes from 16 to 18.

Labour MP Jeff Ennis has tabled a motion that has now been supported by a total of 47 MPs.

A poll conducted last year for the BBC found that four out of five people backed lifting the legal age to 18.

The health department said there were now fewer young people smoking, compared to seven years ago.

We are taking all these measures to crack down on smoking in public places, yet we still allow 16-year-olds to buy cigarettes
Jeff Ennis

Mr Ennis, the MP for Barnsley East and Mexborough, said he decided to table the motion after discovering that ministers had no plans to raise the minimum age.

"I thought it was something that we definitely ought to be considering doing. I think it's an issue that is of public concern," he said.

He said it would make sense for the age at which someone can buy tobacco to match that at which alcohol can be legally bought.

He said that, with current moves towards other restrictions on smoking and other curbs on what teenagers are allowed to buy, it was "a nonsense" to leave the minimum age for tobacco at 16.

"We are taking all these measures to crack down on smoking in public places, yet we still allow 16-year-olds to buy cigarettes.

"We are stopping 16-year-olds from buying knives and we should be doing our best to stop them from buying cigarettes."

'Fewer smoking'

The Public Health White Paper, published in the autumn, set out a timetable to ensure all public places, except pubs which do not serve food, are smoke-free by 2008.

Legislation to introduce such a ban was included in the Queen's speech in May.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said the rate of smoking among 11 to 15 year olds had fallen to 9%, from 13% in 1998.

He said that while more needed to be done, the drop showed the government's strategies on smoking were working.

In the ICM poll carried out for the BBC last August, most people said raising the age at which teenagers could buy cigarettes would deter young people from starting to smoke.

Of the 1,010 adults surveyed, 55% said the minimum age should go up to 21.

Nine out of 10 supported increasing the penalties for selling tobacco to children.

Public in two minds over health
06 Sep 04 |  Health

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