Everything you need to know about the anti-smoking bill

As MPs gather to vote on Rishi Sunak’s plan to ban smoking for people born after 2009, here’s everything you need to know about the potential new legislation.  

At the Conservative party conference, which took place in autumn last year, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced his plans to ban selling tobacco products to anyone born after 1st January 2009. The move has since been hailed as ground-breaking as it could create the UK’s first smoke-free generation. If the bill is passed, ministers say smoking rates amongst individuals aged between 14-30 could be near zero by 2040.

white cigarette stick on white wall

The legislation will raise the age of tobacco sale by one year every year and will include provisions to regulate display, contents, flavours and packaging of vapes and nicotine-based e-cigarettes.

Since Sunak unveiled his plan, experts within the NHS and other medical professionals have expressed their support as smoking kills around 80,000 people per year.

Professor Steve Turner, president of the Royal College for Paediatrics and Child Health, told the Guardian: ‘By stopping children and young people from becoming addicted to nicotine and tobacco, we decrease their chances of developing preventable diseases later in life, and will protect children from the harms of nicotine addiction.’

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking is the biggest contributor to heart disease, strokes, lung disease, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which causes severe breathing difficulties.

Against this backdrop, Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, claimed that the bill would be good to introduce as once people become addicted to smoking, ‘their choice is taken away’.

He said: ‘When I was a junior doctor doing surgery I remember the tragedy of seeing people, whose legs 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.’

In addition to helping preserve people’s health, MPs have also said the bill could help recover Britain’s economy. Government figures show that smoking costs the UK around £1.7bn a year, including £10bn through lost productivity alone.

However, not all ministers have expressed positive thoughts on the new legislation. Former Prime Minister of the Conservative party, Liz Truss, has said the plans are ‘profoundly unconservative’, and her predecessor, Boris Johnson has described them as ‘nuts’.

tables and chairs inside the hall

Ms Truss said earlier this year: ‘Conservative government should not be seeking to extend the nanny state. It only gives succour to those who wish to curtail freedom.’

Although, despite objections, the bill is currently experiencing it’s second reading, which is the first opportunity for ministers to debate and vote on the idea, before more detailed scrutiny takes place in further stages.

It has been stated that up to 80 Tory MPs could vote against the proposed legislation, but some in their ranks have already admitted it will go through with Labour support.

Lib Dem MPs have likewise been given a free vote on the bill and whilst speaking to BBC Breakfast this morning, Sir Ed Davey, the parties leader, 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.’

The final vote on the bill in the House of Lords is expected to take place in June this year. If it is passed, it means England will join the other 74 countries that have successfully implemented smoke-free policies. In 2004, Ireland was the first country to ban smoking in all indoor workplaces and Mexico has banned smoking at beaches, parks and some homes.

Dr Charmaine Griffiths, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘Decisive action is needed to end [smoking which has become an] ongoing public health tragedy – we urge every MP to vote for this landmark legislation.’

Images: Andres Siimon and Aditya Joshi

More on this topic:

Kings Speech: smoking bans, leasehold laws, but not a single social care mention

Risk of premature birth from smoking doubled previous estimates


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