For many of us, the Christmas and New Year period is a time to reflect and to think about making healthier and happier choices about our own lives and the lives of our families and friends. I am pleased that the Government will help us to do this by introducing new laws to improve the health of our children and grandchildren and create Britain’s first smoke free generation.
As a practising NHS hospital doctor and as an MP, I believe it is the duty of every Government to improve the health of the nation. When I was Minister for Child Health, I was proud to have helped to introduce new laws to ban smoking in cars with children to protect them from the health-related dangers of passive smoking. Smoking kills. Plain and simple. It is the leading cause of many types of cancer and acquired lung diseases. All too often, as a doctor, I have seen first-hand the reduction in healthy life years caused by smoking. We know that children are four times as likely to start smoking if they grow up with smokers, and once they do it is highly addictive and difficult to quit.
Smoking has become responsible for many thousands of deaths from cancer every year, placing huge pressure on the NHS. Sadly, too many GP appointments each month are taken up by smoking-related illness. Smoking is also the main driver of health inequality across the country. Deaths from smoking are more than two times higher in the most deprived parts of Suffolk, where more people smoke, compared to our wealthier areas. In simple terms, smoking destroys lives. Therefore, I am pleased that we shall soon see historic new laws which will prevent children who are under the age of 14 this year, from ever legally being sold cigarettes when they turn 18. The smoking age will be shortly be raised by a year, each and every year, until it applies to the whole population. This has the potential to phase out smoking in the next generation of young adults, almost completely, as early as 2040.
By 2075, up to 1.7 million fewer people in our country will be smoking. The health and care system will save billions of pounds and vast numbers of strokes, heart disease, lung cancer and other lung diseases will be avoided, hundreds of thousands of lives will be saved.
No parent ever wants their child to start the deadly habit of smoking. Becoming addicted to cigarettes in early life is one of the worst things that can happen for future health. Now parents will get the support and backing they need to ensure a healthier and smoke free future for their children. We can all help build a better and brighter future for our children and grandchildren by stamping out smoking for good. These changes will mean they will never be able to buy a cigarette, preventing them getting hooked and protecting their health.
At a time when we consider our own New Year’s Resolutions, I am proud that we are taking the necessary and robust action in the battle to stop England smoking. This game-changing plan will make for a healthier country and allow our children and grandchildren to have a much better chance of leading long and healthy lives.