England’s Plans for a Smokefree Generation

Currently, in the UK, it is against the law to sell tobacco products to individuals under the age of 18. In October 2023, the English government introduced a ground-breaking proposal to raise the legal age by one year, each year. The ultimate goal is to make the sale and purchase of cigarettes illegal, gradually phasing out smoking in the country. New Zealand led this initiative in 2021 by annually increasing the legal smoking age for anyone born after 2008. This change made tobacco products less affordable and less accessible for those still permitted to smoke in New Zealand1.

Current statistics

Smoking-related deaths are the UK’s biggest preventable killer, causing 1 in 4 cancer deaths and 64,000 deaths per year in England2. The government’s proposed plan aims to alleviate the pressure, on an already over-burdened National Health Service (NHS), given that nearly one hospital admission per minute is linked to smoking, along with up to 75,000 monthly GP appointments for smoking-related illnesses2.

In 2022, data revealed that across all age groups from 18 to 65+, men were consistently more likely to smoke than women. Notably, individuals aged 25 to 34 had the highest smoking rate, with 19.1% for men and 13.4% for women3. Yet for those who vape daily, the largest group was those aged 16 to 24, constituting 15.4% of daily vapers across the age range from 16 to 60+. This marked a 3.7% increase from 2021 (11.7%)4.

The government’s plan

According to recent statistics, smoking and vaping are predominantly adopted by younger generations and the government’s plans to prevent the next generation from smoking will benefit England ultimately. This would involve removing additional strain, money, and time on the NHS with appointments and hospital admissions caused by smoking, as well as discouraging young people from taking up vaping with future policies in place for flavours and packaging. Additionally, the government’s efforts to restrict disposable vapes aim to mitigate the environmental impact of these products ending up in landfills.

As well as the plans to increase the legal age to smoke, the government has also pledged to fund numerous initiatives aimed at supporting smoking cessation aid. This involves an additional £70 million annually allocated to local stop-smoking services, and a further £45 million spread over two years to introduce the national ‘Swap to Stop’ project. This project aims to provide individuals who are attempting to quit smoking with a free vape kit and behavioural support as another incentive to help England reach the ‘smokefree’ target by reducing adult smoking to 5% or less by 20305. The government is set to intensify its measures on vaping products, introducing additional regulations on flavours and packaging to reduce appeal among children. Although vaping is intended as a resource to help adults quit smoking, the statistics for youth vapers have tripled in the past three years with 20.5% of children aged 11 to 17 years old having tried vaping at least once in 2023, reported by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH). This trend is not unique to the UK, as similar patterns are observed globally, including in Canada and New Zealand6. There are also plans to limit the availability of disposable vapes in the market, aiming to reduce environmental harm by minimising the disposal of these products in landfills. New research has revealed in the UK that 78% of the 138 million disposable vapes sold every year in the UK are being disposed of incorrectly, which means more than two million single-use vapes are thrown away in general waste every week, instead of being recycled correctly7.

Carbon monoxide devices

Bedfont® Scientific Ltd. manufactures the Smokerlyzer® range, measuring carbon monoxide (CO) which consists of the Micro+™, piCObaby™, piCO™, and the homecare CO device the iCOquit®. All the devices measure CO on the breath with instant results to help motivate patients and there are many resources that can help individuals quit smoking. In addition to behavioural support and nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), CO devices have been integrated into stop-smoking programmes for years, used as a bio-verification tool that can identify CO on the breath (produced by incomplete combustion burning of tobacco products) and therefore confirm abstinence from traditional tobacco smoking, in addition to being used as a motivational tool for smokers.

To find out more about how you can support patients with smoking cessation, visit https://www.bedfont.com/smokerlyzer

Read the full research briefing on the government’s smokefree 2030 ambition for England:



  1. New Zealand to ban cigarettes for future generations [Internet] BBC News. 2021. [Cited Tuesday 17th October 2023]. Available from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-59589775
  2. Prime Minister to create ‘smokefree generation’ by ending cigarette sales to those born on or after 1 January 2009 [Internet]. GOV.UK. 2023. [Cited Tuesday 17th October 2023]. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/prime-minister-to-create-smokefree-generation-by-ending-cigarette-sales-to-those-born-on-or-after-1-january-2009
  3. Adult smoking habits in England [Internet]. Office for National Statistics. 2023. [Cited Friday 20th October 2023]. Available from: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/healthandlifeexpectancies/datasets/adultsmokinghabitsinengland
  4. E-cigarette use in England [Internet]. Office for National Statistics. 2023. [Cited Friday 20th October 2023]. Available from: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/healthandlifeexpectancies/datasets/ecigaretteuseinengland
  5. The Smokefree 2030 ambition for England [Internet]. House of Commons Library. 2023. [Cited Friday 20th October 2023]. Available from: https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-9655/CBP-9655-The-Smokefree-2030-ambition-for-England-Oct-2023.pdf
  6. Creating a smokefree generation and tackling youth vaping: what you need to know [Internet] GOV.UK. 2023. [Cited Friday 20th October 2023]. Available from: https://healthmedia.blog.gov.uk/2023/10/12/creating-a-smokefree-generation-and-tackling-youth-vaping-what-you-need-to-know/
  7. Single use vapes spark surge in blazes as three dumped every second [Internet]. Zurich. 2023. [Cited Friday 20th October 2023]. Available from: https://www.zurich.co.uk/news-and-insight/single-use-vapes-spark-surge-in-blazes-as-three-dumped-every-second#:~:text=Research%20released%20today%20by%20public,thrown%20away%20improperly%20every%20week.