A CALL from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to raise the age the buy cigarettes each year to try and create a smoke-free generation has the backing of MP Julian Smith and NHS Humber and North Yorkshire.

The health and care partnership wrote to Mr Smith to express its support for Mr Sunak's proposal to tackle smoking by raising the legal age to buy cigarettes by one year, every year, meaning that children today aged fourteen and under will never be able to legally buy cigarettes and thus deter them from ever starting to smoke.

In its letter to Mr Smith the NHS group said: "Smoking is the largest, preventable cause of ill-health, disability and death in the country. It kills over 64,000 people every year in England, including 1-in-4 of all cancer deaths, and smoking-related illnesses account for 75,000 GP appointments made every month. "It also costs a staggering £17 billion a year, with £3 billion spent directly by the NHS and £14 billion lost to the economy through lost productivity, including £1.7 billion to the Humber and North Yorkshire region alone – dwarfing the £10 billion a year that taxing tobacco products provides."

Stephen Eames, chief executive of Humber and North Yorkshire ICB, and Sue Symington, chair, said the proposals “could be the most significant public health intervention of our lifetime”. The Prime Minister has pledged to put to a free vote in Parliament - where every MP may vote with their conscience - the recommendations of the independent review into smoking, which includes raising the age of sale by one year every year. Julian Smith said, “Smoking is one of the leading causes of death in this country and is the largest, preventable cause of death.

“This year, over 60,000 people will die because of it. If we don’t act now, nearly half a million more will die by 2030. “The Prime Minister’s decision to act on the independent recommendations of the review into smoking will mean life-saving legislation can be passed to safeguard our children’s futures and defend the NHS and the economy from the enormous costs it poses.

"We know targeted action works. When the smoking age was raised from sixteen to eighteen, smoking prevalence fell by 30 per cent in that age group. With over 4-in-5 smokers starting before the age of twenty, taking this decisive action now to curb smoking from the start offers the next generation an opportunity to live their lives smoke-free.”