Britain passes bill to ban smoking for those born after Jan 1, 2009

Britain passes bill to ban smoking for those born after Jan 1, 2009

British MPs voted 383 to 67 to approve legislation that will make it illegal to sell tobacco to those born after Jan. 1, 2009. The step makes Britain a global leader in the crackdown against tobacco.

The bill also restricts the flavouring and packaging used in vapes to make them less appealing to children.

A few more steps are required for the bill to become law, but it will likely take effect in April 2025. The law would make it so that children turning 15 this year will be banned from buying tobacco for life. The government’s optimistic projections believe smoking will be phased out almost entirely by 2040.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak unveiled the policy last October during a Conservative Party convention, where he said that he was looking to build a “brighter future” for children by making it illegal for them to smoke.

Sunak took inspiration from the Jacinda Arden government in New Zealand, which implemented a similar law in 2022, making it illegal for those born after January 2009 to buy cigarettes.

However, that law has been scrapped by the coalition National and First Party due to concerns by current Prime Minister Chris Luxon that the ban would create a black market for tobacco and that the government would lose out on much-needed tax dollars.

New Zealand’s reversal was not enough to deter Sunak.

Britain’s Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins paraded several stats to scare MPs straight, using the deaths of 80,000 British citizens per year as a point of reference. She said that smoking costs the health-care system £17 billion per year (29.2 billion CAD).

“The truth is that there is no safe level of tobacco consumption,” she claimed. “It is uniquely harmful, and that is why we are taking this important action today to protect the next generation.”

An opinion poll by YouGov found middling support for the ban, with 52% of 3,000 respondents saying they supported a gradual ban or government action to prohibit smoking.

Sunak has faced criticism from within his own party, with some arguing that the bill is an attack on personal freedoms.

Former British prime minister Liz Truss, Sunak’s short-lived predecessor, said that the bill sounded like a way of health policing and preventing people from making their own decisions. She said the bill is “emblematic of the technocratic establishment in this country that wants to limit people’s freedom, and I think that is a problem.”

Tory MP Adam Afriye pointed out the fact smoking rates in the U.K. have been on the decline, and that the blanket ban wasn’t needed. “This is not a huge disaster that suddenly needs a radical change of policy to resolve the issue,” he said. “It merely requires, in my view, the upping of the ante when it comes to enforcement and an upping of the ante when it comes to messaging.”

The Tories are keen to avoid internal issues as there are bigger fish to fry — namely the Labour Party who have a massive lead in polling following 13 consecutive years of Conservative rule.

According to the Guardian, current polls have Labour leader Sir Kier Starmer at a whopping 43% in voting intention, with Sunak at 22%, the populist Reform party at 13.2%, the Lib Dems at 9.3%, and the Greens at 6%.

On a global health scale, the World Health Organization launched its “Stop The Lies” campaign late last year, which condemns Big Tobacco’s industry influence on public health policies. 

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