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Irish Independent
Irish Independent
Sam Blewett

UK Labour floats plan to gradually ban sale of cigarettes in attempt to ease burden on health service

Smoking costs the British health service billions of pounds each year. Photo: Rattanakun Thongbun/Getty Images

The sale of cigarettes could be phased out in Britain under new Labour Party proposals to improve public health and ease the pressure on the National Health Service (NHS).

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said the party would consider a package of measures, including a New Zealand-style gradual ban on tobacco.

Smoking costs the British health service billions each year and reducing its prevalence could free up much-needed cash.

The government target of getting the adult smoking rate down to 5pc or under in England by 2030 is widely expected to be missed, unless drastic action is taken.

Mr Streeting suggested cigarette sales could eventually be outlawed if Labour took power.

He told the BBC: “One of the things that was recommended to the government in one of their reviews was phasing out the sale of cigarettes altogether over time. We’ll be consulting on that and a whole range of other measures.

“The New Zealand government are doing it. We want to see how that works. But I’m genuinely curious. If we’re going to get the NHS back on track we also need to focus on public health. And I’m curious to know where the voters are on this, where the country is and what appetite exists for change.

“So we’re going to have to think radically. What the government have done to the NHS is a disgrace. It’s going to take time to fix it and fresh radical thinking, and that’s what Labour is about.”

New Zealand will impose a steadily rising smoking age to prevent tobacco being sold to anyone born on or after January 1, 2009.

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