Rishi Sunak is considering a recommendation that would effectively ban cigarettes for the next generation.
The prime minister could introduce some of the world’s toughest anti-smoking measures by steadily increasing the legal age for consuming tobacco, according to The Guardian, citing Whitehall sources.
The paper said it also understood Mr Sunak’s leadership pledge to fine people £10 for missing a GP or hospital appointment could be under consideration once more.
Downing Street did not deny Mr Sunak was considering adopting a more stringent approach to smoking.
Last year a major review led by Dr Javed Khan backed England following New Zealand’s plan to impose a gradually rising smoking age to prevent tobacco being sold to anyone born on or after 1 January 2009.
Dr Khan recommended “increasing the age of sale from 18, by one year, every year until no one can buy a tobacco product in this country”.
If implemented by 2026, it would mean anyone aged 15 and under now would never be able to buy a cigarette.
However, health minister Neil O’Brien appeared to reject adopting that approach in April, when he said the government’s policy for achieving a smoke-free nation by its 2030 target would focus on “helping people to quit” rather than applying bans.
But it is now understood Mr Sunak is looking at different policy advice on how to reach England’s smoke-free target.
In his government-commissioned report published in June 2022, Dr Khan said without urgent action England would miss the 2030 target by at least seven years, with the poorest areas not meeting it until 2044.
He put the annual cost to society of smoking at about £17bn – £2.4bn to the NHS alone.
‘Smoking is a deadly habit’ – government
A government spokesperson said: “Smoking is a deadly habit – it kills tens of thousands of people each year and places a huge burden on the NHS and the economy.
“We want to encourage more people to quit and meet our ambition to be smoke free by 2030, which is why we have already taken steps to reduce smoking rates.
“This includes providing one million smokers in England with free vape kits via our world first ‘swap to stop’ scheme, launching a voucher scheme to incentivise pregnant women to quit and consulting on mandatory cigarette pack inserts.”
The legal age for buying cigarettes and other tobacco products in England and Wales is 18, having been raised from 16 in 2007 by the previous Labour government.
Singapore releases national AI strategy 2.0, plans for 15,000 AI experts
The Singaporean government released its updated national strategy for artificial intelligence (AI) 2.0 on Dec. 4, in which it outlined how it plans to embrace innovation and tackle the challenges coupled with the technology.
Singapore structured its AI strategy into three distinct systems, consisting of ten “enablers,” which drive those systems and then 15 action steps to make the system work. It’s first AI strategy was introduced in 2019.
The updated plan’s systematic approach focuses on three main areas of its society, including what it calls “activity drivers,” “people and communities,” and “infrastructure and environment.”
Building a smart nation
Among the action steps is Singapore’s plan to develop new AI “Centers of Excellence” (CoEs) across companies operating in the country to foster “sophisticated AI value creation and usage in key sectors.”
The updated AI plan also has benchmarks of equipping governmental agencies with “specialized knowledge, technical capabilities, and regulatory tools” and “sharpening” AI proficiency in all Singaporean public officers.
According to the vision, Singapore plans to use its government capacity to create resources to support AI adoption in the public sector.
Additionally, it said it plans to boost its quantity of “AI practitioners” or local experts to 15,000 through scaling up AI-specific training programs and technology and AI talent pipelines, and that it “remains open” to global talent.
The report said that various tech training programs centered around AI development have placed over 2,700 individuals in “good jobs” to date.
Singapore, like many other countries around the world, said it also plans to increase its computing capacity.
To do this, Singapore said it plans to “deepen” partnerships with major players in the industry, including chipmakers and cloud services providers (CSPs), as well as support local Singapore-based compute industry firms.
It plans to implement its action steps over the next 3-5 years to support its ambitions in the AI sector.
Singapore follows other countries in its push to embrace AI. Recently, at its AI Safety Summit, the United Kingdom said it plans to invest 300 million pounds into obtaining and operating 2 AI supercomputers to boost its own footprint in the global AI race.
OpenAI, one of the world’s leading AI developers, announced a partnership with G42 in Dubai to expand its reach into the Middle East region.
Meanwhile, the United States, one of the world’s top chip manufacturing hubs, has begun to tighten export controls targeting certain countries on its technology to develop and power high-level AI systems.
Taiwan will review global trends before deciding on crypto ETFs
Taiwan’s principal financial regulator, the Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC), is considering allowing crypto exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in the country, but only after analyzing the product’s development in other markets worldwide. At the moment, the FSC considers itself to be “in the exploratory phase.”
According to a Dec. 5 report in the Taiwanese newspaper, the Commercial Times, the FSC is closely watching developments in the United States, where the Securities and Exchange Commission will review spot Bitcoin (BTC) ETFs in January. It also monitors developments in Canada and Australia, where local exchanges trade crypto ETFs.
The FSC also reportedly acknowledged the launch of numerous cryptocurrency futures commodities listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq Exchange, the Chicago Board Options Exchange and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, among others.
The FSC intends to gradually liberalize the rules for digital asset trading, but it should rely on “self-discipline and regulation.” According to the report, Taiwanese regulators have repeatedly blocked crypto ETF initiatives by local investment banks in recent years due to the high volatility of cryptocurrencies.
Cointelegraph reached out to the Financial Supervisory Commission for further information.
Crypto regulatory developments have recently accelerated in Taiwan. In October, local legislators introduced the Virtual Asset Management Bill, a 30-page document outlining regulatory demands for the industry.
It suggests some common-sense obligations for virtual asset service providers, such as separating customer funds from the company’s reserve funds, and, at the same time, doesn’t require stablecoin issuers to hold a 1:1 ratio of reserve funds and doesn’t prohibit algorithmic stablecoins.
In September, the FSC released industry guidelines for virtual asset service providers, outlawing foreign non-licensed entities, with major local crypto exchanges forming a self-regulatory association.
Web3 firm detects major security flaw in common smart contracts
Smart contract development firm Thirdweb reported a security vulnerability that potentially “impacts a variety of smart contracts across the Web3 ecosystem.”
On Dec. 4, Thirdweb reported a vulnerability in a commonly used open-source library that could impact specific pre-built smart contracts, including some of its own. However, Thirdweb’s investigations concluded that the smart contract vulnerability has not yet been exploited, allowing a small window of opportunity for Web3 firms to avoid a possible hack.
Highlighting the vulnerability’s potential to cause massive damage if not rectified immediately, Thirdweb stated:
“The impacted pre-built contracts include but are not limited to DropERC20, ERC721, ERC1155 (all versions), and AirdropERC20.”
Following the proactive warning to Web3 ecosystem, the firm cautioned users who deployed its contracts before Nov. 22 to “take mitigation steps” independently or by using a company-provided tool.
On November 20th, 2023 6pm PST, we became aware of a security vulnerability in a commonly used open-source library in the web3 industry.
This impacts a variety of smart contracts across the web3 ecosystem, including some of thirdweb’s pre-built smart contracts.…
— thirdweb (@thirdweb) December 5, 2023
Thirdweb also advised developers to help users revoke approvals on all affected contracts using revoke.cash, “which will protect your users if you choose not to mitigate the contract,” DefiLlama developer “0xngmi” commented on the request to revoke approvals.
btw this seems important, theyre asking to revoke all approvals to third web contracts (you might have interacted with them without knowing as theyre white-labelled, especially if you do stuff around nfts) https://t.co/T1YU9xnIRb
— 0xngmi (@0xngmi) December 5, 2023
Thirdweb has contacted the maintainers of the open-source library at the root of the vulnerability and contacted other teams potentially impacted by the issue.
It also pledged to increase investment in security measures and double bug bounty payouts from $25,000 to $50,000 while implementing a more rigorous auditing process. The firm also offered a grant to cover contract mitigations.
“We understand that this will cause disruption, and we are treating the mitigation of the issue with the utmost seriousness. We will be offering a retroactive gas grant to cover fees for contract mitigations.”
Full details of the vulnerability were not disclosed for security purposes, and Cointelegraph contacted Thirdweb for further updates but was redirected to the blog post.
The firm raised $24 million in a Series A funding round with Haun Ventures, Coinbase, Shopify and Polygon in August 2022.
The Web3 company, which provides multichain smart contract deployment tools for gaming, minting, marketplaces and wallets, claims to have more than 70,000 developers using its services monthly.
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