MPs Vote For Phased Ban On Smoking – But Sunak Faces Tory Backlash

Some 59 Conservatives refused to support their prime minister's flagship pledge.
Rishi Sunak meets students at the Haughton Academy in Darlington in January.
Rishi Sunak meets students at the Haughton Academy in Darlington in January.
via Associated Press

Rishi Sunak has faced a big Tory backlash as MPs voted for the first time on government plans to stop young people from ever smoking.

MPs voted in favour of the Tobacco and Vapes Bill, which will make it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone currently 15 or younger, by 383 to 67 at its second reading in parliament.

But 59 Conservatives voted again the legislation, underlining the disquiet among libertarian-minded Tory MPs who broadly oppose “bans”.

Tory MPs have been granted a free vote, meaning they can vote with their personal conscience rather than follow the official party line.

Among those to defy Sunak’s policy were cabinet minister Kemi Badenoch, who said the plan undermines her belief in the “principle of equality under the law”. Former home secretary Suella Braverman and ex-immigration minister Robert Jenrick – both also touted as potential leadership contenders – also voted against the bill.

The prime minister announced the plan at the Conservative Party conference in October.

It involves making it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born after January 1 2009.

Under the new law, the legal age for buying tobacco – currently 18 – would increase every year by one year so that people born in or after 2009 will never legally be able to buy cigarettes.

The government aims to have the new system up and running by 2027, when the age will rise to 19.

Sunak said the change would “save more lives than any other decision we could take” as 64,000 people a year currently die from smoking.

The bill will also give the government new powers to clamp down on young people vaping, which include imposing restrictions on flavours and regulating the way they are packaged and sold to make them less appealing to children.

Badenoch, the business and trade secretary, wrote on X: “I’m not a smoker and think it is an unpleasant habit, costly for both the individual and society. The PM’s intentions with this bill are honest and mark him out as a leader who doesn’t duck the thorny issues.

“I agree with his policy intentions BUT I have significant concerns and appreciate the PM making this a free vote. It gives me the opportunity to express my personal view, outside collective responsibility. The principle of equality under the law is a fundamental one. It underpins many of my personal beliefs.”

This is a breaking news story and will be updated. Follow HuffPost UK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


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