UK smoking ban for younger generations passes first parliamentary hurdle

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s radical plan to ban anyone currently aged 15 and under from ever buying cigarettes has passed its first parliamentary vote. 

Yet his aim of imposing some of the world’s strictest anti-smoking rules has angered members of his own governing Conservative Party, with critics saying the state should not interfere in how people live their lives.

The bill, which would effectively make the UK a world leader in strict anti-smoking legislation, passed a vote in parliament with 383 in favour and 67 against, meaning it will progress to the next stage in parliament, where it can be subject to amendment.

Members of Parliaments were given a so-called ‘free vote’ on the bill, meaning they did not have to vote along party lines. A similar law in New Zealand was scrapped this year by the new coalition government before the legislation went into force.

‘Single biggest preventable cause of ill-health’

The Tobacco and Vapes Bill aims to prevent children born since 2009 from ever being able to legally buy tobacco, rather than criminalising the habit. Sunak has said it will tackle “the single biggest entirely preventable cause of ill-health, disability and death”.

The government says it will create the first smoke-free generation so that children turning 15 this year or younger will never be legally sold tobacco. The age of sale will be raised by one year each year to prevent future generations from ever taking up smoking, as there is no safe age to smoke.

Sunak first announced the proposal in a speech at the Conservative Party conference last October, saying: “If we want to do the right thing for our kids, we must try and stop teenagers taking up cigarettes in the first place. Because without a significant change, thousands of children will start smoking in the coming years and have their lives cut short.

“Four in five smokers have started by the time they’re 20. Later, the vast majority try to quit, but many fail because they’re addicted.”

‘Important responsibility’

The Government also wants to make ‘vaping’ far less attractive to children, and so this new Bill includes new powers aimed at restricting the number of vape flavours available, and how they are packaged, marketed and displayed by manufacturers and also in shops. Penalties could include £100 fines for shops in England and Wales which sell tobacco and vapes to under age people.

Professor Steve Turner, President of The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “Without a doubt the introduction of the Tobacco and Vapes Bill will save lives. 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. As paediatricians, we strongly urge MPs to use the important responsibility they have and support this Bill to protect children’s and our nation’s current and future health.”

Click here for more details on the Tobacco and Vapes Bill.

Author: Simon Weedy

Add your comment

characters remaining.

Log in through one of the following social media partners to comment.