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UK lawmakers vote to approve plans to ban smoking for those born after 2009

Those born after 2009 will become Britain's first "smoke-free generation" under the UK government's new ban.
Those born after 2009 will become Britain's first "smoke-free generation" under the UK government's new ban. Copyright Canva
Copyright Canva
By Euronews with AP
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The UK government's new Tobacco and Vapes Bill is intended to protect young people from the harms of smoking.

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British lawmakers voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to back government plans to introduce a landmark smoking ban that aims to stop young people from ever smoking.

The Tobacco and Vapes Bill, a key policy announced by Conservative prime minister Rishi Sunak last year, will make it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born after 2009.

The legislation passed by 383 votes to 67.

The front bench of the opposition Labour Party voted to support the plan but 57 Tory MPs voted against. 

Sunak had been expected to face rebellion from more libertarian-minded members of his party, who criticised the proposals as "unconservative".

Authorities say the bill will create modern Britain's "first smoke-free generation".

Supporting the ban, England's chief medical officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty said once people become addicted to smoking "their choice is taken away".

"When I was a junior doctor doing surgery I remember the tragedy of seeing people, whose legs had had to be cut off because of the smoking that had damaged their arteries, outside the hospital weeping as they lit up because they were trapped by addiction. That is not choice," he added.

A selection of colourful disposable vapes on display for sale in a souvenir shop in London, Monday, Jan. 29, 2024.
A selection of colourful disposable vapes on display for sale in a souvenir shop in London, Monday, Jan. 29, 2024.Kirsty Wigglesworth/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved

Under the Tobacco and Vapes Bill, children turning 15 this year or younger will never be legally sold tobacco. The legal age of sale that people in England can buy cigarettes will be raised by one year, every year, until it is eventually illegal for the whole population.

The bill also includes measures to crack down on youth vaping, such as banning the sale of cheap disposable vapes and limiting their flavours to prevent children from becoming addicted to nicotine.

'Ban risks being counterproductive'

It is currently illegal for anyone to sell cigarettes or tobacco products and vapes to people under 18 years old throughout the UK.

Opponents, such as Conservative lawmaker Simon Clarke, have said it better to focus on education and the tax system to deter young people from smoking, rather than enforcing an outright ban.

"I think that an outright ban risks being counterproductive, I think it actually risks making smoking cooler, it certainly risks creating a black market,” he told the BBC.

Despite some opposition, the bill is expected to comfortably clear its first hurdle in the UK's House of Commons when lawmakers vote on it later on Tuesday.

The plans were believed to have been inspired by similar policies proposed by New Zealand under former prime minister Jacinda Ardern, but the country's new coalition government repealed the bill earlier this year.

The government said that smoking won’t be criminalised, and the phased changes mean that anyone who can legally buy cigarettes now won’t be prevented from doing so in the future.

The number of people who smoke in the UK has declined by two-thirds since the 1970s, but some 6.4 million people in the country - or about 13 per cent of the population - still smoke, according to official figures.

Authorities say smoking causes some 80,000 deaths a year in the UK, and remains the number one preventable cause of death, disability, and poor health.

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