In 2007, the legal smoking age in the UK was increased from 16 to 18. There is now growing pressure to up it again, this time to 21.
There are a number of bad habits or vices we have as a society and chances are all of us do at least one or two of them. Eating fast food, drinking alcohol, and smoking are probably the top three, or bottom three depending on which way you look at it. Many of us do them and many of us are also trying to quit them.
In many cases, our governments also put hurdles in place to try and help us quit these habits. Taxing sugary drinks, placing warnings on cigarette packets, and attempting to ban fast food adverts during the day so children don't see them. The main hurdle is, of course, placing age limits on certain things. Those age limits vary but in most countries, you have to be a certain age before you can smoke or drink alcohol.
Those age limits are almost always a topic of discussion. In the UK, the legal smoking age was raised from 16 to 18 in 2007. 12 years on and BBC reports that people are now clamoring for the legal age to be upped again, this time to 21. The All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking suggested the idea in March, and now respiratory specialist Dr. Nicholas Hopkinson has argued the case in the British Medical Journal.
Since the smoking age was changed in 2007, the number of smokers aged between 16 and 24 has dropped. Prior to the change more than one in four people that age smoked. Today, it is less than one in five. While it is hard to tell whether the law change was responsible for that change, it seems likely. That also means it would be likely that there would be yet another drop off if the age were to be upped again.
Even though changing the legal smoking age isn't currently on the agenda of the UK government, it does have a lot of goals in place when it comes to this topic. The biggest one is for the nation to become smoke-free. By definition, that is less than 5% of the country being smokers. As you can see from the graph above, that could well happen in the not-so-distant future. The percentage of people who smoke in the UK has been dropping since the 1970s and continues to do so today.