Statement from Laurent Huber, Executive Director of Action on Smoking and Health,
Supporting British Prime Minister’s Smoke-Free Generation Proposal
October 4, 2023
Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) welcomes and applauds the announcement by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak detailing his government’s plans to introduce a bill forever banning the sale of tobacco products to anyone born on or after January 1, 2009. It is both a sensible and innovative way to move toward a society without the death and disease caused by tobacco.
ASH, based in the United States, is the world’s oldest anti-tobacco organization and the convenor of Project Sunset, a global coalition determined to phase out the sale of commercial tobacco products.
The concept of a birthdate-based tobacco sales ban – often called a Tobacco-Free Generation (TFG) policy – was first proposed nearly 15 years ago as a politically-palatable way forward to ending the tobacco epidemic, rather than simply mitigating it. It was first passed in Balanga City in the Philippines (where its implementation is enjoined due to a tobacco industry lawsuit), which was followed in 2021 by the city of Brookline, Massachusetts, where anyone born this century cannot be sold tobacco. Brookline was also sued, but has prevailed pending an appeal, and the law is fully implemented. In December 2022, New Zealand became the first country to pass a TFG law. Like Britain, New Zealand bans the sale of tobacco to anyone born on or after January 1, 2009. New Zealand’s law also includes a drastic reduction in the number of tobacco retailers and a decrease of nicotine in cigarettes to non-addictive levels.
Tobacco is the world’s number one cause of preventable death, taking over 8 million lives annually. No other industry is permitted to sell a product that is highly addictive and deadly when used as intended. TFG does not immediately end tobacco sales but draws a line to prevent the tobacco industry from addicting new generations to replace customers killed by their products.
A key aspect of the TFG concept is the focus on sales rather than purchase, use or possession. The perpetrator of the tobacco epidemic is the tobacco industry and governments have a duty under basic and accepted human rights law to stop them. The vast majority of people who smoke became addicted as children, want to quit, wish they hadn’t started and are desperate that their children not start. ASH urges the British government to ensure that existing adult tobacco users are fully supported in their efforts to quit.
There are campaigns to enact TFG laws in several other countries, states, and cities. Some have gone further; two cities in the U.S. have banned tobacco sales entirely.
We have known the devastating toll of tobacco for over 70 years. It is long past time for the world to place lives and health above industry profits.
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