Spread the love

The plan for a tobacco-free United Kingdom debated in Parliament

Photo: Andrej Ivanov Agence France-Presse According to the British government, tobacco is responsible for around 80,000 deaths per year and one in four fatal cancers.

Caroline Taix – Agence France-Presse in London

April 16, 2024

  • Europe

The United Kingdom could gradually become a tobacco-free country. MPs are debating a bill on Tuesday that would mean young people under 15 today will never be legally sold cigarettes.

If the text is passed, these young people will 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.

Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak launched in the fall, to everyone's surprise, a very ambitious anti-smoking policy, even if it divided his camp.

“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 help 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 figures from the government.

“A large majority of smokers wish they had never started,” Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical adviser to the British government, told the BBC. But “once they become addicted, they no longer have a choice.”

He criticized the tobacco industry for “making money by addicting people who generally live in the most deprived areas of the country.”

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.

Also read

  • England considers gradual ban on cigarettes
  • UK to ban disposable e-cigarettes


Rishi Sunak will be able to count on the votes of the Labor Party to pass his text. But the opposition of certain elected representatives of his majority risks further weakening his authority and reinforcing divisions within his party, already well ahead of Labor in the polls in the run-up to the legislative elections expected this year.< /p>

Liz Truss, short-lived head of government before Rishi Sunak, called him “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” of which the former Conservative leader was amateur.

Conservative MP Simon Clarke believes that the project risks “creating a black market”.

“The tobacco industry and its customers are resurrecting their old arguments to […] delay this important legislation,” criticized Martin McKee, professor of European Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“If Parliament passes this text, it will place the United Kingdom at the forefront of the fight to eradicate one of the most harmful inventions of modern times,” commented Lion Shahab, co-director of the tobacco and alcohol research group at Univeristy College London.

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.< /p>

In January, Rishi Sunak also announced a ban on disposable electronic cigarettes.

Flavored like pineapple, strawberry or other appetizing fruits and sold in small colorful tubes, “puffs” are becoming increasingly popular among teenagers. According to official figures, among young people aged 11 to 17 who vape in the UK, the share of those using disposable e-cigarettes has increased nine-fold in two years.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116