Smoking Ban Standoff: Sunak’s Public Health Battle, a Distraction From Bigger Issues?

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s ambitious smoking ban bill faces staunch resistance from libertarian-leaning Conservative MPs, setting the stage for a parliamentary showdown over public health policy. Here’s the full story.

Stumbling Onward

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As the UK Government stumbles from one calamity to the next, Rishi Sunak’s government is not focusing on fighting the cost of living, reducing inflation, or rescuing public services on the verge of collapse. They have bigger fish to fry. 

Strange Priorities

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Their priorities don’t include the impending climate catastrophe, increasing wages, or fighting inequality either. 

Ending Smoking in the UK

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So, what could be taking up so much of the Prime Minister’s time? Nothing less than a landmark public health policy: Rishi Sunak aims to be the Prime Minister who ends smoking in the United Kingdom. 

Smoking Dangers

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However, despite it being known for decades just how dangerous smoking can be for the health of smokers and those around them, it seems that even on a measure as widely supported as making citizens healthier, Sunak may have bitten off more than he can chew. 

Significant Resistance

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The plans, which would aim to prevent the next generation from purchasing cigarettes, face significant resistance from one of the many factions within the Conservative party, predominantly driven by their libertarian beliefs. 

Widespread Support

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Despite widespread support from the country and even within Sunak’s party, another potential rebellion threatens to undermine his legislative agenda. 

Truss’s Rebellion

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The libertarian faction within the Conservative Party, led by disgraced Prime Minister turned ardent culture warrior Liz Truss, is anticipated to mount a rebellion against Sunak’s smoking ban bill. 

Sizeable Rebellion

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Some Conservatives who oppose the ban suggest that their numbers may be considerably more than the Prime Minister is expecting, with as many as 100 MPs unhappy with the proposed legislation. 

Relying on Labour

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This dissent from within his ranks raises the embarrassing possibility that Sunak will rely on opposition support, most notably from the Labour Party, to get his bill through the legislative process. 

Potential Amendments

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Tory MPs poised to oppose the bill emphasise that their stance hinges on its content and potential amendments. 

First Reading

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The upcoming first reading in the House of Commons, typically a procedural step, may provide insights into the extent of the rebellion brewing among Conservative ranks.

Gradually Raising Smoking Age

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Sunak’s proposal, unveiled at the Tory party conference, entails gradually raising the legal age for purchasing cigarettes. 

Annual Increase

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Beginning with individuals born after January 1, 2009, the smoking age will increase annually, effectively prohibiting future generations from buying tobacco products.

Bad Blueprint

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One small problem for Sunak comes from as far away as New Zealand, where the new Conservative government announced they would overturn a similar law that served as the blueprint for Sunak’s proposed bill.


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Critics, including influential Tory backbencher John Hayes, question the feasibility of the proposed legislation. 

Not Practically Possible

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Hayes told the Guardian, “I’m in favour of reaching age consent for smoking and many other things. I think any legislation has to be based on whether it can be implemented, whether it will be done. I don’t think this is practically possible.”

Reevaluated Stance

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Despite internal opposition, Sunak may find support from MPs who have reevaluated their stance on public health interventions. 

Public Health

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Many within the Conservative ranks who are sceptical of government intervention on ideological grounds now acknowledge the merits of public health arguments. 

“It Kills People So Early”

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One such MP is Flick Drummond, MP for Meon Valley, who stated, “Although I understand the views of those who feel the state is getting far too involved in people’s lives, I’m very much in favour of a smoking ban because treating those who have smoked is a huge and expensive public health challenge as well as a human tragedy because it kills people so early.”

“Do Share My View”

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She continued, “Many Conservatives, who instinctively would usually be reticent about such an intervention and who don’t like banning things, do share my view because smoking and passive smoking is so dangerous.”

Public Backing

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Recent surveys, such as the one conducted by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), reveal substantial public backing for initiatives aimed at reducing smoking rates. 

Smoke-Free Britain

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With 71% of adults supporting the goal of a smoke-free Britain, policymakers face mounting pressure to enact stringent anti-smoking measures. 

Public on Side

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Despite the opposition confronting Rishi Sunak over his smoking ban bill, particularly from the libertarian faction within his own party, the public appears to be on his side. 

Rallying Support

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Sunak is reportedly planning to rally support for his legislation by emphasising the public health necessity of banning smoking to help an overburdened NHS and drawing on the considerable public support for such a measure.  

Undue Power

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As the bill prepares to progress through Parliament, its fate hangs on the conscience of a few libertarian Conservative MPs, who hold the power to ensure a smoke-free future for the United Kingdom.

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The post Smoking Ban Standoff: Sunak’s Public Health Battle, a Distraction From Bigger Issues? first appeared on Edge Media.

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Grant Gallacher is a seasoned writer with expertise in politics and impactful daily news. His work, deeply rooted in addressing issues that resonate with a wide audience, showcases an unwavering commitment to bringing forth the stories that matter. He is also known for satirical writing and stand up comedy.

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