A NEW Zealand-style approach to banning smoking which would see anyone currently under the age of 14 never allowed to buy tobacco products could be considered as part of a series of proposals to tackle the issue in the Island.
Health Minister Karen Wilson expressed her support for a public debate on adopting a phased ban on smoking, after the UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced plans to raise the legal age of sale by one year, every year.
The Island’s head of public health, Professor Peter Bradley, said his department was “open to looking” at raising the legal age of sale of tobacco products, and that a strategy targeting the issue would be brought forward next year.
Deputy Wilson said she was “supportive of any measures that move us towards our ambition of achieving a healthier Island”.
She added: “We know that smoking is harmful to the health of not only smokers themselves, but the people around them and that smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer.”
According to the Island’s latest mortality report, lung cancer caused the death of 55 people in 2022, which is six per cent of all deaths, and is the cancer type causing the largest number of ‘preventable deaths’.
Overall, one in five Island deaths are considered “preventable”.
Deputy Wilson referred to New Zealand in her comments – a country which last year became the first to opt for a phased approach, which bans the next generation from ever buying tobacco.
She said she was “supportive of having a debate publicly about adopting a similar approach in Jersey”.
Professor Bradley said public health was “very open to looking at things like legal age of sale amongst a range of options as part of a renewal of the smoking strategy”.
“We’re planning on bringing that work forward to next year,” he continued.
Professor Bradley said that “tobacco remains a big issue for us on the Island” as the “biggest cause of preventable death, so it is really important that we consider options like this”.
Over 1,000 hospital admissions in 2020 were attributable to smoking, he stressed.
He said: “Things like this do need public discussion, but we’d certainly hope to build that option into any proposals. We would conduct public engagement to work out what Islanders feel is appropriate to take forward and then develop proposals from there.”
Professor Bradley further said that there were other measures to stop smoking in the meantime, such as improving services which help people to stop smoking and taxing tobacco products.
Deputy Montford Tadier, who has previously sought support for a possible push to ban the sale of cigarettes on the Island, has called for a change in approach.
He said: ‘It’s not fair or sustainable to keep trying to tax people out of smoking. It’s immoral, because many smokers want to give up, so it’s a regressive tax, and I’d like to see more progressive and out-of-the-box thinking on this.’
While health campaigners welcomed the UK Prime Minister’s move, critics warned that it could discriminate against the young or create a black market – and wipe out revenue created from tobacco duty.
Under spending plans for 2023-2026, which are due to be debated next month, ministers proposed a 12.9% increase on tobacco products, 14.3% on hand-rolling tobacco and 15.9% on cigars in the Government Plan 2026 – generating an estimated £18,204,000 for the public purse in 2024 alone.
How many people smoke in Jersey?
According to Public Health, about 15% of Islanders smoke. This has decreased from 23% in 2010.
20% of Year 10s reported that they have tried smoking.
Support for smokers
This month is Stoptober which is an opportunity for smokers to give quitting a go.
Specialist support is available through calling the Help2Quit service on 0800 735 1155.