Nearly all adult smokers started smoking before they turned 18 and every year more than 300,000 under-16s try smoking for the first time. Of the 11 to 15-year olds who smoke regularly, 11% say they buy their cigarettes from vending machines.
It is estimated that 35 million cigarettes are sold illegally through vending machines to children every year.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: “Smoking is one of the biggest and most stubborn challenges in public health. Over eight million people in England still smoke and it causes more than 80,000 deaths each year.
“Cigarette vending machines are often unsupervised, making it easy for children to purchase cigarettes from them.
“The ban on cigarette sales from vending machines will protect children by making cigarettes less accessible to them - we want to do everything we can to encourage young people not to start smoking in the first place.”
Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said: “We want to stop young people starting smoking - and we believe this will reduce the numbers of new smokers and support people who are trying to quit.
“Seven out of ten current smokers want to give up smoking, and anyone considering giving up smoking should get in touch with their local NHS Stop Smoking Service for free help, advice and support.”
A Tobacco Control Plan
The ban on cigarette sales from cigarette vending machines is part of Healthy Lives, Healthy People: A Tobacco Control Plan for England that the Government announced on 9 March.
It sets out the Department of Health’s aims to reduce smoking rates in England by the end of 2015:
- from 21% to 18.5% or less among adults
- from 15% to 12% or less among 15 year olds
- from 14% to 11% or less among pregnant mothers
From today, anyone selling cigarettes from a vending machine could be fined up to £2,500. Any person found guilty of displaying cigarette adverts on a vending machine could face imprisonment for up to six months, or a fine of £5,000, or both.
The Government set out the following key actions in the Tobacco Control Plan:
- stopping the promotion of tobacco
- making tobacco less affordable
- effective regulation of tobacco products
- helping tobacco users to quit
- reducing exposure to secondhand smoke
- effective communications for tobacco control
Although adult smoking rates have been brought down from over 45% in the early 1970s to 21% in 2008, treating smoking-related diseases is estimated to cost the NHS around £2.7bn per year and the wider costs to society of smoking are estimated at almost £14bn per year.
More than 80,000 people die in England each year from smoking-related diseases - more than all deaths from alcohol, road traffic and other accidents, suicide, illegal drugs and diabetes combined.
Remember, it is never too late to quit. Smokers who quit with the help of the NHS have the greatest success, with NHS stop smoking services being four times more effective than cold turkey quitting and twice as effective as medication alone.
For help to quit, call the NHS Smokefree Helpline on 0800 022 4 332 or visit the Smokefree website.