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HomePoliticsPoliticians will vote on Rishi Sunak's smoking ban

Politicians will vote on Rishi Sunak’s smoking ban

  • Parliament debates strict anti-tobacco law, targeting Generation Alpha
  • Bill prohibits underage tobacco and vape sales, faces Conservative opposition
  • Health organizations urge support; bill likely to pass despite opposition

Members of parliament will discuss proposals for some of the most stringent anti-tobacco legislation in the world.

Major public health intervention: Rishi Sunak aims to make Generation Alpha, which was born in 2009, the first generation in the United Kingdom to abstain from smoking.

The Tobacco and Vapes Bill prohibits underage 15-year-olds from purchasing cigarettes beginning this year. This legislation also diminishes the allure of vapes to children.

Several Conservative Members of Parliament have stated they will not support the measure.

While Labour supports the measure, Conservative MPs will have a free vote on it and will not be required to vote with the government, it is likely to pass.

The legislation would prohibit the sale of tobacco products as opposed to the act of smoking itself.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of mortality in the United Kingdom, accounting for 80,000 deaths annually and two-thirds of long-term users’ deaths.

Furthermore, in England, nearly every minute, a patient is admitted to the hospital with a condition caused by smoking, including cardiovascular disease, stroke, and lung cancer.

England’s chief medical officer, Professor Sir Chris Whitty, who supports the ban, stated that “their choice is taken away” once an individual develops an addiction to smoking.

“If you support the principle of freedom of choice, you ought to oppose anything that restricts individuals’ autonomy.”

During my time as a surgical resident as a junior doctor, I endured the heartbreaking sight of patients outside the hospital sobbing as their cigarettes burned out; their addiction had ensnared them in a life of servitude; such was the consequence of the disease.

Former cabinet member of the Conservatives under Liz Truss and Boris Johnson, Sir Simon Clarke, stated that he opposed the initiative.

It is far more effective to discourage youth smoking through education and the tax system, according to him than by enforcing an outright prohibition.

[A complete ban] runs the risk of making smoking more acceptable, establishing a clandestine market, and presenting the authorities with an unmanageable dilemma, he added.

Trading standards officers would be granted additional authority to immediately levy £100 penalties on establishments that sell tobacco or vapes to minors, with the proceeds from these fines being allocated towards additional enforcement efforts.

Additionally, flavours, packaging, and the sale of vapes would be subject to new regulations to reduce their appeal to minors.

Although vaping is prohibited for those under the age of 18, data indicates that one in every five children has experimented with the device. Furthermore, the prevalence of vaping among children has increased threefold over the last three years.

“A true game-changer”

Tuesday is the bill’s second reading, the initial opportunity for members of parliament to discuss and vote on the broad issue before subsequent phases of more detailed scrutiny.

The measure is virtually certain to become law later this year, given Labour’s support.

Lib Dem MPs are granted the opportunity to cast a free vote on the measure. Party leader Sir Ed Davey expressed, “Having personally observed the detrimental health effects of tobacco use, I can say that it is the primary cause of preventable mortality in our nation, with no positive outcomes.

Certain members of the Conservative Party express opposition to the plan because it is impracticable, while others contend that it lacks conservatism. Certain members of parliament have chosen to attempt to amend the legislation at a later stage.

Mr Johnson, a former prime minister, and Ms Truss, who is anticipated to caution against “banning things” during the Commons debate, are among the opponents. Johnson has referred to the plans as “absurd.”

Ms Truss stated that gradual smoking cessation initiatives were “unconservative.”

“Children should be shielded from harm and peril while they are developing the capacity for independent thought,” she stated, adding, “However, we live in a free nation.”

We should not be discouraging individuals from smoking, and I am concerned about the potential consequences that may ensue.

Because this would be a free vote, abstention or opposition to the measure by Conservative MPs would not be considered rebellion.

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Nonetheless, Mr Sunak’s policy would be humiliating and potentially problematic if a significant portion of his party chose not to support it.

Luke Tryl, director of the research organisation More in Common UK, stated on the Today programme that the measure enjoyed broad public support, especially from Conservative voters in 2019.

He stated that individuals appreciate the government adopting stringent actions, especially regarding public health and issues affecting children and youth.

Dr. Charmaine Griffiths, chief executive officer of the British Heart Foundation, called the legislation a “game-changer” and joined the chorus of health organisations and charities urging Members of Parliament to support the bill.

She continued, “Decision is required to put an end to this ongoing public health catastrophe; we urge all Members of Parliament to support this landmark legislation.”

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