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Smoking ban has passed its first parliamentary hurdle

Rishi Sunak’s plans for a smoking ban passed its first parliamentary hurdle yesterday when the House of Commons voted in favour of the plan by 383 votes to 67.

The prime minister wants to raise the legal age to buy cigarettes annually in a bid to create a “smoke-free” generation by phasing out the habit, as well as restrict the sales of vaping products in what is a major public health intervention.

The flagship Tobacco and Vapes Bill, backed by Labour, proposes to make it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born after January 1 2009, so that anyone aged 14 would never be legally sold a cigarette.

Opponents are concerned that its introduction would be the start of a ”nanny state” which would control people’s lifestyles, and could lead to the potential of further bans on products like alcohol or sugar. Also it was feared that the rules would be difficult for authorities and businesses to enforce. Others argued that the ban impinged on civil liberties at the cost of health.

Another sticking point was that the plans would give adults born a day apart from one another different rights.

Conservative MPs were given a free vote in the Commons, which meant that they could oppose the government if they wished without facing repercussions.

The votes represented a sizeable Tory rebellion and a significant number of abstentions.

In total, 57 Conservative MPs voted against Sunak’s plans, with more than 100 abstaining. It marked the second reading of the smoking bill, and the first time the whole House of Commons voted on it.

It will now be considered, and potentially amended by MPs, before going to the House of Lords for further scrutiny.