Nearly 3/4 of the public in the North East support raising the age of sale to create a smokefree generation
A new YouGov poll for Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) shows 73% of people in the North East support Government plans to create a smokefree generation.
It shows massive support to proposals to raise the age of sale so that it will never be legal to sell tobacco to anyone born after the start of 2009 – currently 14 or younger.
With just one week to go until the end of the UK-wide consultation to stop the start of new smokers and curb youth vaping, Fresh and Directors of Public Health across the North East are supporting plans for a smokefree generation.
Nationally the policy is backed by 74% of those who intend to vote Conservative at the next election, 72% of those who intend to vote Labour and 65% of those intending to vote Lib Dem. 
A requirement for retailers to request proof of age from anyone buying tobacco, to make the policy easier to implement, is also backed by 71% of the public in the North East.
Ailsa Rutter, OBE Director of Fresh and Balance, said: “There is huge public support for a smokefree generation – and no wonder when most smokers start as children on an addiction which costs tens of thousands of pounds and kills 2 out of 3.
“It is time for the North East to speak with one voice to stop the start of young smokers and create a better life for the next generation.”
Amanda Healy, Durham County Council’s Director of Public Health and Chair of the Association of Directors of Public Health North East Network, said: “The North East has seen the biggest fall in smoking in England – but for many decades saw the worst outcomes from diseases like lung cancer and COPD, and the biggest impact on families, health budgets and our economy.
“There are very few families who haven’t seen a loved one suffer because of smoking…that is why people don’t want that for their children or grandchildren.”
Alice Wiseman, Vice President for the Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH) and Gateshead Council Director of Public Health, said:
“Every year, 64,000 people die in the UK as a direct result of tobacco consumption. We know that most smokers start young, regret ever starting and then struggle to quit. While we will continue to support those people who want to quit, we must break the cycle of our children and young people becoming addicted to this lethal product. The fact that two thirds of people in England also support raising the age of sale is a clear sign that the proposed legislation must be made a reality so that we can give the next generation more freedom to live healthier – and longer – lives.”
Other North East Directors of Public Health have also spoken out in a series of short videos:
Gerry Taylor, Director of Public Health for Sunderland City Council, said:
“In Sunderland we’re supporting the Government’s Consultation for a smokefree future because we think that would make a really big difference to the health and wellbeing within Sunderland. It will make a big difference to the health outcomes and inequalities in health outcomes that we see for our residents.”
Mark Adams, Director of Public Health for Middlesbrough Council and Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, said:
“I support the Government’s aim for a smoke free generation – tobacco is the biggest cause of health inequalities in Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland. This will make a massive difference to life expectancy and healthy life expectancy for the people in communities that I and my team support.”
Miriam Davidson, Interim Director of Public Health for Darlington Borough Council, said:
“Six out of 10 people who smoke started when they were still school age. I warmly, strongly welcome the proposal to increase the age of sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products.”
Tom Hall, Director of Public Health for South Tyneside Council, said:
“Smoking is the biggest preventable cause of ill health and disability in the North East, and I absolutely support these proposals.
“Putting that to one side, as a dad, all of my kids are under the age of 14 and I just love the prospect of them growing up unable to buy tobacco, which we all know puts damage to your own health and wellbeing but also takes money out of people’s pockets. I’m looking forward to a smokefree generation.”
Tony Hill, Director of Public Health for Newcastle City Council, said:
“I’m supporting the Government’s smokefree generation plans because it’s so important that young people get the best start in life. It is not just about how long you live but it’s the quality of life and the good things that come from being smokefree.”
Wendy Burke, Director of Public Health for North Tyneside Council, said:
“I warmly welcome the Government’s proposals to raise the age of sale for tobacco products in England as part of a drive for a smokefree generation. Tobacco remains a major cause of illness, of disability and of death in our borough and it’s also a driver of health inequalities.
“We know that six out of ten people who start smoking do so in childhood, so this is a childhood addiction, it’s not an adult choice when people start to smoke. So, raising the age of sale sends out a really clear message to society as a whole of the uniquely lethal nature that tobacco has.”
Craig Blundred, Director of Public Health for Hartlepool Borough Council, said:
“I fully support the proposal that the age of sale for tobacco products should be changed so that anyone born on or after the 1st January 2009 will never be sold tobacco products. Smoking is a major cause of ill health, death and health inequalities. Children and young people are getting addicted to cigarettes from an early age so if these proposals become law, they will have a major impact on the health of the population of Hartlepool.”
Gill O’Neill, Director of Public Health for Northumberland County Council, said:
“We’ve come such a long way to reduce the amount of illness and deaths that are directly linked to smoking. However, we have so much further to go to eradicate smoking and all its health, social and financial harms it causes. I’m absolutely supporting the government’s consultation about creating the conditions to enable a smokefree generation. The proposals will make a significant difference to our young people and work towards them having the best start in life they all deserve.”
Sarah Bowman-Abouna, Director of Public Health for Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council, said:
“I fully support the government’s proposals around the age of sale. We know the extensive harm that smoking causes to our local communities to their wellbeing and their life chances. So, these proposals are a really significant step forward in helping to mitigate and prevent that harm. Smoking is still one of the key preventable causes of illness, and early death in our population of Stockton-on-Tees, so anything like this that can be done to prevent that in the future is a huge positive and we fully support those proposals.”
The consultation also considers what further regulations are needed on vaping products. ASH is calling for the following measures:
- Making disposable vapes subject to duty to reduce their affordability and increase powers of HMRC and Border Force to prevent illegal vapes being imported.
- Putting vapes behind the counter and preventing their promotion in shops
- Banning product design and brand imagery on vapes and their packaging which is appealing to children
Together these measures will reduce the affordability and appeal of vaping to children while ensuring e-cigarettes remain available as a less harmful alternative to help smokers quit.
Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH, said:
“This is not a party political issue in the UK, successive governments, backed by strong public and parliamentary support, have passed increasingly stringent tobacco regulations aimed at bringing the smoking epidemic to an end. The passing of the smokefree generation legislation promised in the King’s speech, backed by increased investment to help adult smokers quit, can put us in pole position to achieve a smokefree future.”
Bob Blackman CBE, MP for Harrow East and Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health said:
“No one wants to see children start smoking which is why support for this policy is so high across the political spectrum. As MPs we see the impact smoking has in our communities and many of us have experience in our own lives too. For me this is deeply personal. My late mother was only 47 when she died of lung and throat cancer, and was a very heavy smoker for most of her life.”
 All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 3,533 adults of which 160 were from the North East. Fieldwork was undertaken between 15th – 17th November 2023. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all adults in England (aged 18+).