Britain's King Charles III has confirmed plans are in the works on a bill that would ban anyone born in 2009 or later from ever being able to buy cigarettes.
Speaking to Parliament for the first time Tuesday, Charles said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's proposal would phase out the sale of cigarettes and help create a smoke-free generation.
"My government will introduce legislation to create a smoke-free generation by restricting the sale of tobacco so that children currently aged 14 or younger can never be sold cigarettes, and restricting the sale and marketing of e-cigarettes to children," Charles said.
The legislation would raise the legal age that people can buy tobacco products by one year every year starting in 2027, meaning anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 2009, will never be able to legally buy cigarettes. The proposal was initially announced by Sunak at the 2023 Conservative Party Conference in October, when he also pledged to crack down on the sale of vape products.
"Four in five smokers have started by the time they're 20," Sunak said. "Later, the vast majority try to quit. But many fail because they're addicted and they wish they had never taken up the habit in the first place. Now if we could break that cycle, if we could stop the start, then we would be on our way to ending the biggest cause of preventable death and disease in our country."
About 13 out of every 100 adults in the U.K. smoked cigarettes in 2022, according to the Office for National Statistics. And every year around 76,000 people in the country die from smoking, with many more living with smoking-related illnesses.
Sunak said his proposed ban would not impact current smokers in the country, but would help "cut cancer deaths by a quarter" and "significantly reduce long-term pressure" on the country's public health service.
However, Sunak has faced some backlash over the plans, with some members of parliament reportedly gearing up to vote against the bill. Former Prime Minister Liz Truss voiced her opposition to the proposal this week, saying it's time for Conservatives to "stop banning things."
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