- Tobacco companies say that Mr Sunak’s could have ‘unintended consequences’
Tory MPs are urging the Prime Minister to abandon his policy of eradicating smoking, arguing that it is a ‘distraction’ from more pressing issues such as immigration and war in the Middle East.
The MPs, who want Rishi Sunak to switch to a policy of raising the age of smoking to 21, have made their move as the Government prepares to announce a ban on disposable vapes to stop children from becoming addicted to the habit.
It follows the Prime Minister’s announcement last year to raise the age at which people can buy tobacco products – currently 18 – by a year, every year, so that a 14-year-old today will never be able to legally buy cigarettes.
The Prime Minister announced last year plans to raise the age at which people can buy tobacco products – currently 18 – by a year, every year
Tory MP Giles Watling has written to Mr Sunak to argue the proposal should be replaced by increasing the age people can buy tobacco to 21
The policy is modelled on legislation in New Zealand. But MPs have seized on the fact that New Zealand has since ditched the law on the grounds that it is unworkable.
Tory MP Giles Watling has written to Mr Sunak to argue the proposal should be replaced by increasing the age people can buy tobacco to 21.
Over 80 per cent of adult smokers started smoking before that age.
Mr Watling, who is understood to be supported by a number of libertarian MPs including former Prime Minister Liz Truss, said: ‘The Government should be concentrating on the really big and important issues of the day – Ukraine, Gaza, the cost-of-living crisis and, of course, immigration.
‘This smoking policy is a sideshow, a distraction, and will not do the Conservative Party any good.
‘I feel that the policy of age discrimination on the ability to buy tobacco and vapes, firstly is not going to work, and secondly is going to look more and more ridiculous as time goes on.’
He added: ‘In not so many years time we will have the situation where a 40-year-old will be able to buy tobacco products and a 39-year-old won’t.
Tobacco companies have argued that Mr Sunak’s ‘planned generational smoking ban’ risks ‘myriad unintended consequences’ (stock photo)
‘This is going to cause confusion for the consumer and shopkeeper alike. A far simpler and more elegant solution would be to introduce a blanket ban to those under the age of 21.’
The Government is expected to set out its response tomorrow to a consultation on how to protect children from vaping, after data suggested that one in five has now tried the habit – despite it being illegal for under-18s.
It is likely to include a proposal to ban disposable vapes and to restrict them to just four flavours – such as tobacco, mint, menthol and fruit.
Tobacco companies have argued that Mr Sunak’s ‘planned generational smoking ban’ risks ‘myriad unintended consequences’ and said that such bans had also been abandoned by South Africa and Malaysia over fears they boost the black market.
A No 10 source said: ‘There is no intention to change track on moves to protect children from taking up smoking.’