UK MPs to vote on smoking ban for those born after 2009

UK MPs to vote on smoking ban for those born after 2009
UK MPs to vote on smoking ban for those born after 2009

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - LONDON — Plans to stop young people born since 2009 ever smoking are being debated and will be voted on later.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s bill aims to create the UK’s first smoke-free generation in a major public health intervention.

The Tobacco and Vapes Bill would ensure anyone turning 15 from this year would be banned from buying cigarettes, and also aims to make vapes less appealing to children.

A number of Tory MPs have told the BBC they won’t back the bill.

The BBC understands that Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch is considering voting against the plans.

Conservative MPs will get a free vote on it so they won’t be ordered to vote with the government, but the bill is likely to pass as it has Labour support.

The bill would make the sale of tobacco products, rather than the act of smoking, illegal.

Tobacco use is the UK’s single biggest preventable cause of death, killing two-thirds of long-term users and causing 80,000 deaths every year.

On top of that, a patient is admitted to hospital with a smoking-related condition, such as heart disease, strokes and lung cancer, almost every minute in England.

Supporting the ban, England’s chief medical officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty said once people become addicted to smoking “their choice is taken away”.

“If you are in favor of choice you should be against something that takes away people’s choice.

“When I was a junior doctor doing surgery, I remember the tragedy of seeing people, whose legs had had to be cut off because of the smoking that had damaged their arteries, outside the hospital weeping as they lit up because they were trapped by addiction — that is not choice.”

Tory MP Sir Simon Clarke, who served in Liz Truss and Boris Johnson’s Cabinets, said he did not support the move.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today program it was far better to focus on education and the tax system to deter young people from smoking, rather than enforcing an outright ban.

“[An outright ban] risks making smoking cooler, it certainly risks creating a black market, and it also risks creating an unmanageable problem for the authorities,” he said.

Under the plans, trading standards officers would get new powers to issue on-the-spot £100 fines to shops selling tobacco or vapes to children, with all the money raised going towards further enforcement.

There would also be new restrictions on flavors, packaging and the sale of vapes to make them less appealing to children.

Figures show that one in five children has tried vaping despite it being illegal for under-18s, while the number of children using vapes has tripled in the past three years.

The bill is being given its second reading on Tuesday, which is the first opportunity for MPs to debate and vote on the broad issue, before more detailed scrutiny takes place in further stages.

With Labour backing the bill, it’s almost certain to become law later this year.

Lib Dem MPs have a free vote on the bill, and speaking to BBC Breakfast, the party leader Sir Ed Davey said: ‘I’ve seen the health impacts of smoking tobacco, there’s no good outcome, it’s always bad, it’s the leading cause of preventable death in our country.”

Some Tory MPs object to the plan because they believe it is unworkable, others because they say it’s un-Conservative. Some MPs intend to try to amend the legislation further along in the process.

Opponents include former prime ministers Johnson, who has called the plans “barmy”, and Truss, who is expected to warn against “banning things” in the Commons debate.

Truss told the BBC’s political editor Chris Mason that plans to phase out smoking over time were “unconservative”.

She said “we should absolutely protect children from damage and danger while they are developing decision-making capabilities”, but added: “We’re a free country.

“We shouldn’t be telling people not to smoke and I worry about where it will lead.”

As this would be a free vote, Tory MPs voting against the bill or abstaining would not be considered as rebelling.

But it would still be embarrassing —and potentially problematic — for Sunak if a sizable chunk of his party chose not to back his policy.

The proposed legislation will grant Scotland the appropriate powers needed to enact the bill, but the Scottish Parliament will then need to give its consent via a vote in Holyrood at a later date.

Scotland’s Public Health Minister Jenni Minto said the Scottish government wanted to create a tobacco-free Scotland by 2034.

Luke Tryl, director of research organization More in Common UK, told the Today program there was widespread public support for the bill, particularly among 2019 Conservative voters.

“People like the government taking tough measures, particularly on public health and things that affect children and young people,” he said.

Health organizations and charities have lined up to urge MPs to support the bill, including Dr. Charmaine Griffiths, British Heart Foundation chief executive, who said the law would be a “game-changer”.

She added: “Decisive action is needed to end this ongoing public health tragedy — we urge every MP to vote for this landmark legislation.” — BBC

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