MPs vote for smoking ban despite Tories’ division over policy (2024)

A ban on smoking for future generations moved a step closer last night, but Rishi Sunak suffered a blow to his authority after dozens of Conservative MPs voted against it.

The House of Commons voted by 383 to 67 in favour of the prime minister’s plan to make it illegal for anyone born in 2009 or later to buy tobacco products in the UK.

The legislation, which would effectively ban smoking for future generations by raising the legal age every year, is seen by the prime minister’s allies as a key part of his political legacy.

However the result, voted against by 57 Tory MPs – including Kemi Badenoch, a likely future leadership contender, and five other ministers – underlined the depth of division within the party even over Sunak’s flagship policies.

Labour has thrown its weight behind the plan, which was unveiled at the Tory party conference in October, ensuring that it sailed through the Commons. More than 100 Tory MPs abstained, although some of them will have been absent from the Commons for reasons unrelated to the vote.

Badenoch, the business secretary, was the only cabinet minister to vote against the legislation. She said before the vote that she had “significant concerns” because the legislation meant that “people born a day apart will have permanently different rights”.

She told LBC after the vote: “I don’t think the end justifies the means. The principle I was against was treating adults differently and how that would be enforced. It didn’t feel right to me.”

MPs vote for smoking ban despite Tories’ division over policy (1)

Five other ministers – Julia Lopez, Alex Burghart, Steve Baker, Lee Rowley and Andrew Griffith – also voted against it. Penny Mordaunt, the Commons leader, was among dozens of Tory MPs who abstained.

Conservative MPs were given a free vote although Andrea Leadsom, the junior health minister in charge of the bill, contacted some of them to make the government’s case.

Opposition to the plans was led by the former prime minister Liz Truss, who told the Commons she was “very concerned” it was “emblematic of a technocratic establishment in this country that wants to limit people’s freedom”.

Tory critics said the proposal would result in adults being treated differently according to their age, and it was a slippery slope that could lead to bans on fast food or alcohol. Some MPs argued the plan would encourage an illegal tobacco trade and that it would be difficult to enforce.

Among those who voted against the ban were Truss, the former business secretary Simon Clarke, the former home secretary Suella Braverman, and the former immigration minister Robert Jenrick.

Several Tory MPs with links to the vaping industry spoke in opposition to the bill. Mark Eastwood, the vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group for responsible vaping, argued it would push people from vaping to smoking. Adam Afriyie, who received an award last year from a vaping industry group, said he could not support the proposal because it would treat adults differently according to their age.

The legislation would not ban vaping but it would introduce greater restrictions, especially on marketing vapes at young people.

The plan for a smoking ban is modelled on proposals in New Zealand, which were repealed earlier this year, before they took effect, by a new rightwing government in Wellington.

Senior Tories including Sajid Javid, the former health secretary, and Steve Brine, the chair of the health select committee, spoke in favour of the legislation and said it would relieve pressure on the NHS and free future generations from smoking addictions. Polling by Savanta published on Tuesday suggested that 64% of Conservative voters were in favour of the plan.

“Can we honestly say that this drug enhances personal liberty and freedom? It’s a nonsense argument – anyone who makes that argument, they’re choosing to stand up for big tobacco against the interests of their constituents,” Javid told MPs.

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The Guardian revealed this week that tobacco firms were lobbying politicians to oppose the legislation and instead support raising the smoking age from 18 to 21 in an attempt to avoid an outright ban.

“Given what we know it is of course right to protect future generations from this drug and this addiction. The freedom from pain, from disease and inequality, is one of the greatest freedoms that there is,” Javid said.

MPs vote for smoking ban despite Tories’ division over policy (2)

Victoria Atkins, the health secretary, told the Commons before the vote that there was “no liberty in addiction”. “Nicotine robs people of their freedom to choose,” she said. “The vast majority of smokers start when they are young, and three-quarters say that if they could turn back the clock they would not have started.”

Labour used Tory opponents’ arguments to mock the government, and pointed to former Tory ministers’ links to tobacco companies.

Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, told the Commons: “Of all the policies the Conservatives have adopted from the Labour party in the past few years, nothing shows our dominance in the battle of ideas more than this latest capitulation.

“We happily align ourselves with big health in defence of the nation and we are only too happy to defend the health secretary against the siren voices of big tobacco we see gathered around our former prime minister in the corner of the chamber.

“A stopped clock is right twice a day, and I find myself agreeing with the former prime minister. This is absolutely an un-Conservative bill, it is a Labour bill, and we are delighted to see the government bring it forward.”

After the vote Deborah Arnott, the chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health, said: “Parliament has today begun the process of consigning smoking to the ‘ash heap’ of history.

“However, this is only the first step, the bill must now go through committee and another vote before going through the same process in the House of Lords. The passage of the bill should be expedited to ensure it is on the statute book before the general election.”

MPs vote for smoking ban despite Tories’ division over policy (2024)

FAQs

MPs vote for smoking ban despite Tories’ division over policy? ›

The House of Commons voted by 383 to 67 in favour of the prime minister's plan to make it illegal for anyone born in 2009 or later to buy tobacco products in the UK.

Why is smoking not banned? ›

Public outcry (from smokers and nonsmokers alike), policing costs, illegal importation, anti-government intervention and underground sales all virtually prohibit its full restriction. So there is the conundrum: tobacco has no benefit, yet it can't be outlawed.

When was smoking banned in England? ›

On the 1st July 2007, it became illegal to smoke in enclosed public places and workplaces in England, including work vehicles, hire cars and public transport. The legislation resulted in 1200 fewer emergency admissions to hospital for heart attacks in the following year.

When was smoking banned in us? ›

After his administration had presided over several health policy decisions favoring the tobacco industry,10,11 President Clinton, as chief of the executive branch bureaucracy, finally banned smoking in federal buildings with Executive Order 13058, signed in August 1997.

Can you smoke in bars in Ireland? ›

Smoking in Ireland is banned fully in the general workplace, enclosed public places, restaurants, bars, education facilities, healthcare facilities and public transport.

What states still allow smoking indoors? ›

There are some states that do not have a statewide smoking ban for restaurants: Wyoming, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia.

Is there any country that banned smoking? ›

Smoking in all public places in Bhutan became illegal on 22 February 2005. It thus became the first nation in the world to outlaw this practice outright. The Tobacco Control Act of Bhutan was enacted by parliament on 16 June 2010.

Is it illegal to smoke in your house UK? ›

It is considered reasonable for someone to smoke within their own home and in their garden. This however can be pursued as a civil matter which the council would not get involved with. Complaints about Odour from Cannabis, as cannabis is an illegal substance, should be reported to the Police.

How much is a pack of 20 cigarettes UK? ›

After another tobacco tax hike in October 2021, the price of cigarettes hit a massive £13.60. Returning to present day, as of December 2023, a pack of 20 currently stands at an eye-watering £15.67.

Can you smoke in Parliament? ›

Staff who smoke at work may only do so in the areas of the parliamentary estate which have been officially designated as smoking areas. Smoking is prohibited in all other areas.

What states have no smoking ban? ›

As of July 2018, twelve states have not enacted any general statewide ban on smoking in workplaces, bars or restaurants: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Is smoking allowed in the White House? ›

Because there is a ban on all kinds of smoking in the White House. At First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's orders, all ashtrays have been removed, and at her insistence, they are never to be placed on tables for official dinners. Apparently, her target was cigarettes, yet the effect of her decision also covers cigars.

What states are smoke free? ›

The states are: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.

Is there a smoking ban in France? ›

Smoking and vaping are banned in all indoor public places (government buildings, offices, public transport, universities, museums, restaurants, cafés, nightclubs, etc.). Cafés and shops selling tobacco-related products are submitted to the same regulations.

Is smoking allowed in bars in Canada? ›

Smoking in Canada is banned in indoor public spaces, public transit facilities and workplaces (including restaurants, bars, and casinos), by all territories and provinces, and by the federal government.

Is smoking banned in New Zealand? ›

WELLINGTON, Feb 27 (Reuters) - New Zealand will repeal on Tuesday a world-first law banning tobacco sales for future generations, the government said, even while researchers and campaigners warned of the risk that people could die as a result.

Should smoking be banned or not? ›

The cigarette is the deadliest object in the history of human civilisation. Cigarettes kill about 6 million people every year, a number that will grow before it shrinks. Smoking in the twentieth century killed only 100 million people, whereas a billion could perish in our century unless we reverse course.

What would happen if smoking was banned? ›

Fewer financial costs to society

In the United States, more than $156 billion a year of productivity is lost due to deaths from tobacco and diseases caused by second hand smoke. Another $170 billion goes to direct medical costs for smokers. If tobacco vanished, so would those costs to society.

Is the US banning smoking? ›

The United States Congress has not attempted to enact any type of nationwide federal smoking ban in workplaces and public places. Therefore, such policies are entirely a product of state and local laws.

Why is smoking a problem in the US? ›

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, over ten times as many Americans have died prematurely from cigarette smoking than have died in all the wars fought in U.S. history. Smoking can harm every organ in the human body, and it can directly result in death from heart disease, cancers or strokes.

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