With more than eight in ten smokers starting before the age of 20, new plans to create a smokefree generation will help our children and their children avoid a lifetime of addiction.

The proposals will see tobacco phased out over time to prevent future generations from ever starting to smoke in one of the most significant public health actions in recent times, saving thousands of lives and billions of pounds.

Late last year, the Prime Minister announced ambitious plans to tackle the single biggest preventable cause of ill-health, disability and death in the UK: smoking.

The proposals include:

· New legislation to make it an offence to sell tobacco products to anyone born on or after 1 January 2009

· This means that the age of sale of tobacco products will increase by one year every year, so that children turning 15 this year or younger will never be legally sold tobacco – a move supported by 71 per cent of adults in Great Britain

· New funding to help current smokers quit by doubling cash for local ‘stop smoking services’ to nearly £140 million, as well as £30m to crack down on illicit tobacco and underage sale of tobacco and vapes

The new rules will not criminalise smoking or mean people who can be legally sold cigarettes now will be prevented from doing so in the future.

But it will be a huge step to help the three-quarters of smokers who say they would never have started the addiction if they had the choice again.

“Smoking is based on addiction and most people wish they had never taken it up,” says Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England. “They try to stop and they cannot.

“As a doctor I have seen many people in hospital desperate to stop smoking, but they cannot.”

Smoking puts a huge burden on the NHS and social care: one in four hospital beds is occupied by a smoker, costing the NHS and social care over £3 billion a year.

‘Every day I feel healthier’

Tim Eves, 45, from Rustington in West Sussex
(Tim Eves, 45, from Rustington in West Sussex)

Father-of-three Tim Eves, 45, from Rustington in West Sussex, smoked for 12 years and quit last year with the help of his local Wellbeing Hub.

“I spoke to them, we set a quit day and I did it with them,” he explains, with the aid of nicotine patches and gum, and weekly check-ins.

“Some people can just stop and then never smoke again, but for most it’s hard getting through those initial tough few months.

“Once you do, the benefits hugely outweigh the downside, the stress of giving up.

“It’s not often I feel proud of myself but I thought, ‘This is a big thing in my life’. And every day I feel healthier as a result. And I have a few more quid in the bank.”

‘A good first step’

Devan Cusack, 25, from Leighton Buzzard
(Devan Cusack, 25, from Leighton Buzzard)

Devan Cusack, 25, from Leighton Buzzard saw her mum struggle to give up smoking – which is why she has never started.

She supports plans to phase out smoking for future generations, saying: “They need to do something about it because smoking is just so casual and easy to do. People aren’t actually aware that it’s a big issue that needs to be spoken about.

“I have a younger brother, who turned 14 recently and I was talking about it with him. He may never be legally sold cigarettes and he’s all for it as well... I know there will be ways to access it somehow, but this is a good first step.”

Time to quit?

The case for change

· Tobacco is the single most important entirely preventable cause of ill health, disability and death in this country, responsible for 80,000 deaths in the UK each year

· It causes around one in four cancer deaths in the UK and is responsible for just over 70 per cent of all lung cancer cases

· Smoking also substantially increases the risk of many major health conditions throughout people’s lives, such as strokes, diabetes, heart disease, stillbirth, dementia and asthma

How to give up smoking

When you stop smoking, good things start to happen – you can begin to see almost immediate improvements to your health.

It’s much easier to stop smoking when you get the right support, and there are lots of options to choose from. Check out some free tools, tips and support – which includes using vapes for adults – to help you stay on track at nhs.uk/better-health/quit-smoking