ACS (the Association of Convenience Stores) has responded to the publication of an independent review into smoking in England, raising concerns about the impact of a recommendation to raise the minimum age of sale by one year, every year, until no-one can legally access tobacco products. ACS has welcomed proposals for more funding to tackle the illicit tobacco market.

The Khan Review, entitled ‘Making smoking obsolete’, is an independent review conducted by Dr Javed Khan OBE into the Government’s ambition to make England smokefree by 2030. The review focuses on a series of interventions that Dr Khan believes are necessary to reduce the smoking population in the UK down to 5% by 2030, warning that without these additional measures, England is set to miss its target by at least seven years.

One of the main recommendations made in the Review is to introduce a New Zealand style system that would see the age of sale raised from its current level of 18 by one year, every year, with the intention that eventually no-one will be able to buy tobacco in England.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Increasing the legal age of sale by one year, every year, would disrupt the very effective measures put in place to enforce an age restriction at 18, which applies not just for tobacco but to many of the products local shops sell. We need to look at how this would work in practice, but it looks like it would be operationally very challenging for small shops. Underage smokers aren’t buying tobacco from shops, who have an excellent record of implementing the Challenge25 policy, but from friends, family and the black market.”

The Review calls on the Government to invest £125m per year on smokefree policies, with recommendations for a ‘polluter pays’ industry levy and corporation tax surcharges to fund the investment.

Key recommendations made in the Khan Review include:

  • Introducing a tobacco licence for retailers to limit where tobacco is available
  • Dedicating an additional £15m per year of funding to local trading standards to boost enforcement
  • Raising the cost of tobacco duties by at least 30% across all tobacco products
  • Offering vaping as a substitute for smoking alongside information on the benefits of switching

Lowman continued: “The proposals for licensing tobacco retailers need to be fleshed out, with clarity over what this measure would be trying to achieve. Licensing restrictions that stop new entrants from entering the market damage investment and the provision of all the products and services we sell. Ultimately, those who are selling tobacco illegally now without being caught would just continue to do so without seeking a licence.

“The proposed additional funding for local authorities to enforce against those selling illicit tobacco products is welcome, and is something that we’ve highlighted as a necessary priority for Government for a long time, but we need to see this implemented and we need more than £15m investment to close the £2.3bn tax gap caused by illegal tobacco sales. Unless we tackle the black market, the recommendations to further regulate the sale of tobacco through legitimate businesses will not be effective.”

As part of its work on the successful Challenge25 campaign, ACS has produced specific materials for retailers to highlight the need for customers purchasing tobacco products to provide identification. These materials, along with materials for other age restricted products are available here:

Figures from the 2022 Crime Report show that enforcing an age restricted sales policy is one of the top triggers of abuse from customers to colleagues. ACS provides advice for retailers on how to manage abuse in store here:


The full review is available here: