UK Parliament Debates Law Phasing Out Smoking

UK Parliament considers legislation to phase out smoking cessation

Britain’s parliament on Tuesday began its first debate on Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s flagship bill to stop young people from smoking, despite much opposition from his own Conservative Party.

The law bans the sale of tobacco products to people born after January 1, 2009, effectively raising the smoking age by one year each year until it applies to the entire population.

“This could lead to an almost complete phase-out of smoking among young people as early as 2040,” the government said when announcing the plan, calling the move “historic”. .

The bill is likely to be passed with support from opposition parties, including Labor, which is expected to win this year’s general election, but Mr Sunak faces a potential rebellion from backbenchers in the Conservative Party.

The embattled leader has little political capital to spend within his divided party as he struggles to rebuild his party’s fortunes after months of disastrous polls.

Smoking is Britain’s biggest preventable cause of death, and polls show that around two-thirds of British people support a phased smoking ban.

But liberal-leaning MPs from the ruling Conservative Party’s right wing, including former prime minister Liz Truss, have condemned the move as an attack on personal freedoms.

Conservative MP Simon Clarke told BBC Radio that he was “skeptical” and vehemently opposed to the plans.

He said: “I think a complete ban risks being counterproductive. In fact, I think it risks making smoking cool. It certainly risks creating a black market and it presents an intractable challenge for authorities. There are risks it creates.”

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said at an event in Canada last week that he was “angry” that Winston Churchill’s party was “banning cigars”.

Vaping clamp down

At the start of the government’s debate, Health Secretary Victoria Atkins told the House of Commons: “There is no freedom in addiction.”

“Nicotine takes away people’s freedom of choice. The majority of smokers started smoking when they were young, and three-quarters say they wouldn’t have started smoking if they could turn back the clock,” she says. .

Lawmakers are scheduled to vote Tuesday night on whether to approve the plan for the next step in the legislative process.

Conservative MPs have a free vote, meaning they can rebel against the government without fear of being suspended from the party.

The Westminster Observatory will scrutinize the scale of the rebellion and see what it suggests about Mr Sunak’s authority, amid reports that some ministers are considering voting against it. is.

The proposed ban was said to be inspired by a similar plan in New Zealand, which was later withdrawn.

Official figures show that smoking causes around one in four people to die from cancer, and 64,000 deaths a year in the UK.

Lyon Shahab, co-director of University College’s Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group, said: “If Parliament passes this new bill, the UK will be at the forefront of the fight to eradicate one of the most harmful inventions of our time. It will become.” London.

The law also aims to crack down on youth e-cigarettes by restricting flavors and packaging to make them less appealing to children.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)