The government is moving ahead with plans to make it illegal to buy tobacco for a person under the age of 18.
The policy breakthrough, which is likely to be in place by this autumn, will be brought about by an amendment to the Children and Families Bill.
The new rules will see adults caught buying cigarettes for a child hit with a £50 fixed penalty notice, or a fine of up to £2,500.
Public health minister Jane Ellison said: “We must do all we can to help children lead a healthy life. That’s why this measure is designed to help protect children from the dangers of being bought cigarettes by irresponsible adults - something that I hope concerned parents and responsible retailers will welcome.”
According to new government data, 41% of 15-year-olds who currently smoke say they usually buy their cigarettes from other people rather than buying them from a shop.
The news been warmly welcomed by the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), which has been calling for a ban on tobacco proxy purchasing for the last 10 years.
The ACS now plans to work with government, police and trading standards to establish how the new rules will be enforced.
Just last week the House of Lords rejected similar plans to make tobacco proxy purchasing illegal, via an amendment to the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill.
Ministers also plan to make it illegal for under-18s in England to be banned from buying electronic cigarettes (e-cigs).
Chief medical officer professor Dame Sally Davies said: “We do not yet know the harm that e-cigs can cause to adults let alone to children, but we do know they are not risk free. The amount of nicotine and other chemical constituents and contaminants, including vaporised flavourings, varies between products meaning they could be extremely damaging to young people’s health.”
These plans have also secured the ACS’ support. “This would bring the law into line with the commonly accepted policy in the industry,” Lowman added.