DURHAM City MP Mary Foy is calling for the legal age buy cigarettes to be raised to 21.

She said the move, along with further health warnings, would help to further reduce illness and deaths from smoking by 2030.

The MP's calls, put forward in parliament on Wednesday, have been welcomed by Fresh, the anti-smoking group formed in the North East in 2005.

Ms Foy, vice chairperson of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Smoking and Health, said: “We know that cigarettes are cancer sticks and kill half the people who use them.

"So I hope that health warnings on cigarettes would deter people from being tempted to smoke in the first place, especially young people.”


Durham City MP Mary Foy

Durham City MP Mary Foy


Over 113,000 people have been killed by smoking in the North East since the year 2000, while smoking kills around 74,600 people a year in England.

Ailsa Rutter OBE, director of Fresh and Balance, said: “The appalling fact is that at least one in two long term smokers will die from tobacco.

"This is a cross party issue so we welcome that MPs from both sides of the House are calling for action now to save lives.

“Smoking places a terrible toll on people's health, their mobility and independence, on local communities and on the NHS and local authorities in health and social care.

"It is the biggest cause of health inequalities and at a time when the government is talking about the need for “levelling up” they must take further bold action to reduce smoking.

"We must do everything we can to make smoking history for more families and ignore the shrill voices of the tobacco industry and paid front groups whose only thought is their profits. They must be made to pay for prevention.”

Read more: Mary Foy blasts Durham University over drink-spiking 

MPs have submitted an amendment to the Health and Care Bill going through Parliament which would allow the health secretary to make graphic health warnings mandatory.

Ms Foy’s amendments would also let the health secretary raise the legal age for buying cigarettes from 18 to 21.

Cigarette packets already carry warning messages such as “smoking causes cancer” as well as images of people who are seriously ill in hospital with smoking-related disease.

Ms Foy also wants tobacco firms to be forced to include health information messages inside packet.

The APPG’s chairman, Conservative MP Bob Blackman has endorsed Foy’s amendment, as has the shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, and shadow justice secretary Alex Cunningham, a fellow North East MP.

Conservative former Cabinet minister, Sir George Young, now a peer, has also separately introduced a private member’s bill into the House of Lords seeking to ensure cigarettes have to carry such warnings, which could also say “smoking causes cancer”.

Cancer Research UK and the Royal College of Physicians, which represents hospital doctors, are backing the plan.

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