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  • World - Europe
  • Updated: April 16, 2024

UK House passes landmark bill to create 'smoke-free generation'

UK House passes landmark bill to create 'smoke-free generati

The UK House of Commons passed a significant bill on Tuesday aiming to establish a "smoke-free generation" by prohibiting the sale of cigarettes to individuals born in 2009 or later. 

The legislation represents one of the toughest anti-smoking measures globally.

With a vote of 383-67, the bill is part of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's efforts to address the harmful health effects of smoking, which result in tens of thousands of deaths annually.

While the bill received strong support from Labour lawmakers, it sparked divisions within Sunak’s Conservative Party.

Former Prime Minister Liz Truss criticized the ban as an example of “nanny state” overreach, arguing it restricts personal freedoms. Truss and others worry the legislation places an undue burden on retailers and enforces different rights for individuals based on their birth year.

However, supporters of the bill emphasize the urgent need to address smoking’s deadly consequences. Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, defended the bill by highlighting nicotine’s addictive nature and the difficulties smokers face in quitting.

Although vaping products are excluded from the ban, the bill seeks to make them less appealing to young people by regulating packaging and banning disposable vaping devices.

Despite declining smoking rates in the U.K., approximately 1 in 8 people still smoked last year, including more than 12 per cent of 16- and 17-year-olds in England.

By allowing a “free vote” in Parliament, Sunak provided Conservative lawmakers the freedom to vote against the government without facing repercussions.

Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch was among those who voted against the bill, citing concerns about the burden on businesses.

The U.K. joins other countries, such as New Zealand, in pursuing a smoke-free future by gradually phasing out tobacco sales.

The long-term impact of the legislation remains to be seen, but supporters believe it represents a significant step toward improving public health and reducing smoking-related deaths.

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