LONDON (Reuters) - The UK government launched plans on Monday to halve the number of smokers by the end of the decade and said it would consider removing branding from cigarette packets and banning cigarette vending machines.
At the moment, 21 percent of the population smoke and ministers want to reduce that figure to 10 percent by 2020, with a particular focus on young people.
“We’ve come so far and now we’ll go even further -- to push forward and save even more lives,” said Health Secretary Andy Burnham.
“One day, in the not too distant future, we’ll look back and find it hard to remember why anyone ever smoked in the first place.”
The number of people lighting up in Britain has fallen by a quarter in the past decade as a result of various policies including a ban on advertising, putting grisly pictures on packets and raising the age of sale for tobacco to 18.
In 2007, the government joined several others throughout the world in introducing a ban on smoking in virtually all enclosed public places and workplaces.
But despite falling smoking rates, the number of deaths attributed to smoking is still 80,000 a year.
Now restrictions will be reviewed to see if they should be extended to include entrances to buildings so non-smokers do not have to run a gauntlet of smokers.
The government is looking at protecting children from second-hand smoke by promoting smoke-free homes and cars.
Ministers are also to consider the case for plain packaging, and banning the sale of tobacco from vending machines as part of the moves to deter young people.
“Now that we’ve banned advertising and will soon see an end to attractive displays in shops, the only remaining method of advertising tobacco is the packaging,” Burnham said.
“So we will carefully consider whether there is evidence for making tobacco companies use plain packets.”
Reporting by Avril Ormsby, Michael Holden and Kate Kelland; Editing by Steve Addison
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