Kemi Badenoch says she will vote AGAINST PM’s smoking ban

Kemi Badenoch says she will vote AGAINST PM’s smoking ban

Kemi Badenoch became the first of Rishi Sunak’s ministers to confirm they will vote against his smoking ban this afternoon as he faced a rebellion by the Tory Right. 

The Business Secretary said she would not support the move for a rolling ban on tobacco products, which is set to be approved by the Commons tonight. 

Ms Badenoch, who is seen as a leading contender to succeed Mr Sunak as party leader if the Tories lose the election, said that the legislation would ‘treat legally competent adults differently’ by bringing in an age limit on buying cigarettes that changed every year.

Writing on X she also questioned how enforceable it was, and said the burden for doing so would fall ‘not on the state but on private businesses’.

Because it is a ‘conscience vote’ Ms Badenoch can defy Mr Sunak without fear of being sacked. She is one of a number of ministers who are expected to vote against the law.

Her intervention came after ex-PM Liz Truss had slammed Rishi Sunak for ‘limiting freedom’ with his plans for a cigarettes ban as MPs gear up for a crunch vote. 

The Business Secretary said she would not support the move for a rolling ban on tobacco products, which is set to be approved by the Commons tonight.

Liz Truss today slammed Rishi Sunak for ‘limiting freedom’ with his plans for a cigarettes ban as MPs gear up for a crunch vote

Health secretary Victoria Atkins (left) and her shadow Wes Streeting are both supporting the proposals 

The Business Secretary wrote on X ahead of the Commons vote: ‘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.

‘We should not treat legally competent adults differently in this way, where people born a day apart will have permanently different rights.

‘Among other reasons it will create difficulties with enforcement. This burden will fall not on the state but on private businesses.

‘Smoking rates are already declining significantly in the UK and I think there is more we can do to stop children taking up the habit.

‘However, I do not support the approach this bill is taking and so will be voting against it.’

During tetchy exchanges in the Commons, Ms Truss swiped that the government was ‘infantilising’ Brits by taking away their choice.

Stressing that she was not a supporter of smoking, she said she was ‘disappointed’ that the Tory administration thought the ‘state knows best’. Ms Truss said Labour was the right home for ‘finger-wagging, nannying control freaks’.

The intervention came as shadow health secretary West Streeting gloated that Ms Truss and her allies were right to brand the proposals  ‘un-Conservative’. 

He said he was ‘delighted’ to support the measures after they were ‘adopted’ by Mr Sunak.

Dozens of the PM’s own rank and file, and several ministers, are set to oppose the plans to ensure anyone currently aged 15 or younger will never be able to buy a cigarette legally.

However, Mr Sunak has insisted it is right to protect children, while Chief Medical Office Chris Whitty dismissed criticism saying many people cannot give up after becoming addicted.  

Although technically MPs will have a free vote on the Tobacco and Vapes Bill this evening, as by convention it is a conscience issue, significant opposition among Conservatives would still be a blow to Mr Sunak’s authority.

There has been speculation that 50 Tories could go against the premier’s policy, but it is not in danger of being derailed due to Labour backing. 

The legislation will ban tobacco sales to anybody born on or after January 1 2009, meaning no one under the age of 15 in England will be able to legally buy a cigarette (Stock Image)

Rishi Sunak is facing a revolt in his own party against his proposed smoking ban

 The legislation would ban tobacco sales to anybody born on or after January 1 2009 – meaning children aged 15 or younger today will never legally be sold a cigarette in England. 

It also gives the Government powers to tackle youth vaping, with restrictions on flavours and new rules on packaging and selling vapes. 

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins kicked off the debate by insisting that smoking was causing huge suffering.

She told the Commons: ‘I totally understand the concerns of fellow Conservatives. We are not in the habit of banning things, we do not like that, and so we will only bring these powers in when we are convinced, following a no doubt robust debate with the intellectual self-confidence that we have to have such debates on this side of the House… we come to the conclusion that there is no liberty in addiction.

‘Nicotine robs people of their freedom to choose. 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.’

She added: ‘That is why, through this Bill, we are creating a smoke-free generation that will guarantee that no-one who is turning 15 or younger this year will ever be legally sold tobacco, saving them from the misery of repeated attempts to give up, making our economy more productive and building an NHS that delivers faster, simpler and fairer care.

‘I would argue it is our responsibility, indeed our duty, to protect the next generation and this is what this Bill will do.’

But Ms Truss said the policy was ’emblematic of a technocratic establishment in this country that wants to limit people’s freedom’.

She added: ‘The problem is the instinct of this establishment, which is reflected by a cross-party consensus today in today’s chamber, is to believe that they, that the Government are better at making decisions for people than people themselves and I absolutely agree that that is true for the under 18s.

‘It is very important that until people have decision-making capability while they are growing up that we protect them. But I think the whole idea that we can protect adults from themselves is hugely problematic and it effectively infantilises people, and that is what has been going on.

‘And what we’re seeing, is we’re seeing not just on tobacco but also on sugar, also on alcohol, also on meat, a group of people who want to push an agenda which is about limiting people’s personal freedom, and I think that is fundamentally wrong.’

Conservative MP Alexander Stafford said the Government should not be ‘wasting our time talking about something that’s dying out anyway’, adding: ‘Young people aren’t smoking, it is not cool to smoke… what this Bill should be focused on is more on the vape side of things, on the illegal vapes, the super-charged vapes, the colourful, the flavourful vapes.

‘Instead, we are sitting here debating cigarettes that are naturally being gone out of existence anyway.’

But Ms Atkins replied: ‘Sadly, there is nothing inevitable about a decrease in smoking rates. Indeed in 2020, the United States saw the first increase in tobacco sales in 20 years and in Australia in 2022, the proportion of teenagers smoking increased for the first time in 25 years.’

She added: ‘Here in the United Kingdom, 100,000 children and young people take up smoking every year and so we must not be lulled into this sense of inevitability and security.’

Ms Atkins kicked off the debate by insisting that smoking was causing huge suffering

Earlier, former Cabinet minister Sir Simon Clarke said he is ‘both sceptical and downright opposed’ to the plans.

‘There are good ways to tackle a problem like this and then there are bad ways, and I think that an outright ban risks being counterproductive, I think it actually risks making smoking cooler, it certainly risks creating a black market, and it also risks creating a unmanageable challenge for the authorities,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Sir Simon said education and the tax system should be used as tools to deter people from smoking.

Asked about opinion polls which show that two-thirds of people in Britain back a phased smoking ban – a figure which extends to 70 per cent among those who voted Conservative in 2019, Sir Simon said: ‘There are some things, of course, which are not necessarily philosophically or practically right which would command support in the opinion polls.

‘I think probably if you were to do an opinion poll on bringing back hanging you’d find that there was a significant proportion of people who backed it, that wouldn’t necessarily mean it was the right thing to do.’

Boris Johnson has branded the plan ‘absolutely nuts’, saying last week: ‘We’re banning cigars. What is the point of banning – the party of Winston Churchill wants to ban cigars… Donnez moi un break, as they say in Quebec. It’s just mad.’ 

Chief Medical Office Chris Whitty dismissed criticism saying many people cannot give up after becoming addicted

Despite the Tory opposition, Labour is set to whip in favour of the Bill meaning it will almost certainly pass. 

The Government believes creating a ‘smokefree generation’ could prevent more than 470,000 cases of heart disease, stroke, https://bangcacloai.com/ lung cancer and other deadly diseases by the turn of the century. 

Professor Whitty said: ‘Smoking kills and causes harm at all stages of life from stillbirths, asthma in children, stroke, cancer to heart attacks and dementia.

‘This Bill, if passed, will have a substantial impact – preventing disease, disability and premature deaths long into the future.’ 

LabourRishi SunakBoris Johnson

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