United Kingdom: MPs vote for a radical tobacco ban to say the least

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The United Kingdom could gradually become a tobacco-free country: MPs voted on Tuesday in favor of a bill according to which young people under the age of fifteen today will never be legally sold cigarettes. If the text is finally adopted, these young people would become the first tobacco-free generation in the United Kingdom, where smoking is, according to the government, the main cause of avoidable mortality. It is responsible for around 80,000 deaths per year and one in four fatal cancers.

During the first vote on this bill on Tuesday in the House of Commons, 383 MPs approved the text, 67 voting against. Among them nearly sixty conservative deputies, including Business Minister Kemi Badenoch and several secretaries of state. Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak launched a very ambitious anti-smoking policy in the fall, to everyone’s surprise, even if it divided his camp.

12% of English people aged 16 and 17 smoke

“It is our responsibility, our duty, to protect the next generation,” said Health Minister Victoria Atkins at the opening of the debates in Westminster on Tuesday afternoon. This bill should make it possible to combat “the tyranny of addiction” created by tobacco. According to the government, around 12% of 16 and 17 year olds in England smoke. Four in five smokers started before the age of 20 and remain addicted for the rest of their lives, even though most of them have tried to quit, according to government figures.

Before the United Kingdom, New Zealand had passed a similar text in Parliament in 2022, banning the sale of cigarettes to anyone born after 2008. But at the end of 2023, the new conservative government announced the abandonment of these pioneering measures . Rishi Sunak was able to count on the votes of the Labor Party to support his text. But the opposition of certain elected representatives of his majority is likely to further weaken his authority and reinforce divisions within his party, already well ahead of Labor in the polls in the run-up to the legislative elections expected this year.

“Anti-conservative”

Liz Truss, short-lived head of government before Rishi Sunak, described him as “anti-Tory”. “We are a free country. We shouldn’t be the ones telling people not to smoke.” Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson also criticized the text, saying it was “just crazy” for Winston Churchill’s party to want to ban “cigars” which the former Conservative leader was a fan of.

This text also plans to combat vaping among young people by placing restrictions on flavors and regulating the way vaping products are sold and packaged in order to make them less attractive. In January, Rishi Sunak also announced a ban on disposable electronic cigarettes.

This article is originally published on 20minutes.fr

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