Health authorities in Leeds, and across the broader Yorkshire and the Humber region have hailed the recent introduction of the Tobacco and Nicotine Bill as a “game-changer” with the potential to wipe out smoking within a generation.

The newly introduced Bill, unveiled this week, sets out to significantly slash smoking rates by outlawing the sale of tobacco products – encompassing cigarettes, cigars, and e-cigarettes – to individuals born on or after January 1, 2009. This landmark move ensures that individuals under the age of 15 in 2024 will never legally be able to purchase tobacco products, even upon reaching adulthood.

While lauding the Bill’s objectives, health leaders stress the urgency of swift action and its swift passage through Parliament.

Councillor Salma Arif, Leeds City Council’s executive member for adult social care, public health and active lifestyles, said; “We fully support this Bill and are confident that raising the age of sale of tobacco products will delay smoking uptake in Leeds and reduce the number of young people who start smoking in the first place.”

Victoria Eaton, Leeds City Council’s director of public health, said; “Our children deserve protection from tobacco, a uniquely lethal consumer product. Tobacco kills up to two in three long-term users when used as intended and places a significant burden on health, social care and the wider economy, damaging productivity through early disease and death. Children who live with someone who smokes are four times more likely to become smokers themselves. Most people who smoke started in childhood.”

Rachel Spencer-Henshall, West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership’s public health director lead said; “Most smokers start young and get ensnared by addiction. The Bill’s proposals, with strong public backing, can break this cycle. This Bill is a game-changer. We, in West Yorkshire, fully support it. It has the power to save lives in our communities for generations.”

Smoking remains a pressing public health concern in the UK, leading to severe illnesses and premature deaths. Data reveals that the majority of smokers initiate the habit during adolescence. While vaping can assist in smoking cessation and poses a fraction of the risks associated with smoking, it is not devoid of risks, particularly for non-smokers.

Health authorities underline the imperative of shielding children from the hazards of tobacco use. By implementing preventive measures such as smoking cessation assistance and addressing youth vaping, significant strides can be made towards realising a smoke-free future.

During a consultation phase in 2023, Leeds City Council expressed support for the smoke-free generation initiatives, encouraging other local entities, partners, and the public to participate in the consultation process.