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UK permanently bans cigarette sales to people born after 2009

UK permanently bans cigarette sales to people born after 2009


London, April 16, 2024. Toby Melville/Reuters

The Tobacco and Vape Bill, which was passed in the House of Commons for the first time on Tuesday April 16, is one of the latest bills introduced by Rishi Sunak's Conservative government just months ahead of the UK general election. It is also the most radical, or at least the most surprising, and stands in stark contrast to the traditional liberal line espoused by the Conservative Party. The aim is to completely ban the sale of cigarettes to UK residents born on or after January 1, 2009.

Currently, the sale of cigarettes is allowed in the UK from the age of 18. If the bill becomes law, anyone born after January 1, 2009 would be permanently denied the right to purchase cigarettes upon reaching adulthood, becoming the first person in the world to do so. Only New Zealand had considered such a blanket ban before its newly elected conservative government stepped down in February.

It is also illegal to sell tobacco products, such as cigarettes and cigars, to anyone born after 2009. The bill also expands the current ban on sale of vaporizers and refills to nicotine-free products to those under 18 years of age. Finally, it gives relevant ministers the power to tighten regulations to limit refillable perfumes and make product packaging less attractive.

Read More Subscribers Only French Government's New Smoking-Free Plan

Sunak's government claims it wants to “protect future generations” from the harm caused by tobacco. Tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death in the country, killing two thirds of heavy smokers and killing 80,000 people a year, according to official figures released by Downing Street. The pressure on public hospital systems is significant. According to an impact study attached to the bill, “almost every second” a patient is hospitalized due to smoking.

Up to 75,000 doctor visits each month are due to smoking. On Tuesday, Sir Chris Whitty, the UK government's chief medical officer, told the BBC: “If you support right to choose, you should be against taking away people’s right to choose.”

Criticism of the ‘nanny state’

The expert, who has become a well-known and valued figure to the British public, added: “When I was doing junior surgery, I remember the tragedy of seeing people having their legs amputated because their arteries had been damaged by smoking.” Comments on hosting nearly daily health updates during the COVID-19 pandemic. Chancellor Sunak is personally defending the bill despite his economically liberal beliefs. This marks a surprising departure from the Conservatives' almost superficial aversion to excessive public intervention in the private sphere and what they call the “nanny state”.

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