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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”.

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Could single-use vapes be banned by 2024?

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.

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‘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.

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Singapore releases national AI strategy 2.0, plans for 15,000 AI experts




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.

Increasing compute

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.

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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.

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