This would be a grossly illiberal and abhorrent measure. Smoking, while widely deprecated, remains a legal activity, and 18 is generally recognised as the age of majority. What kind of message does it send to young people that you can’t trust them with what they put in their bodies? It is also completely inconsistent with allowing them to exercise informed consent over being vaccinated, not to mention the widespread pressure to reduce the voting age from 18 to 16. So you can decide who should govern the country, but not whether you can enjoy a legal product?
Some may see this as yet another stick to beat the present government, but I really can’t see the opposition parties raising much objection to it. They will do their usual nodding dog act as they did over lockdowns.
It’s not as if it would be particularly effective anyway. It would presumably only be a ban on purchase, not on possession and consumption, so there would be nothing to stop young people actually smoking. With the ban on smoking in indoor public places, the range of situations in which young smokers will stand out and be subject to social stigma has already greatly reduced. And, from the aroma hanging around many bus stations and public parks, the consumption of cannabis seems to be generally tolerated even though possession is illegal at any age. It’s more a case of sending a signal that smoking is being further denormalised.
It’s estimated that 25% or more of all tobacco products consumed in the UK are already bought on the black market, so young people are unlikely to encounter much problem in getting hold of smokes. It will also place more pressure on retailers who have to enforce the restriction and lead to potential confrontations.
And don’t imagine that it wouldn’t set a precedent that would in the fullness of time be extended to alcohol. Indeed, it’s already been proposed in Scotland, which in recent years has been the standard-bearer of authoritarian public health policies.