Stamping It Out

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British lawmakers voted in favor of a pioneering bill that would prevent individuals born after 2009 from purchasing cigarettes, a piece of legislation that observers have described as one of strictest in the world, the BBC reported.

On Tuesday, the bill, proposed by Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, received resounding support in Parliament: It passed with a decisive vote of 383 to 67, despite opposition from senior Conservative leaders.

The draft law will still need to be voted in the upper chamber before it comes into force – although some observers noted that it could become law before the country’s general election which must happen by next January.

If enacted, the ban would position the United Kingdom’s smoking regulations at the forefront globally. The proposal drew inspiration from a similar law in New Zealand, which was later repealed after a change in government.

The bill’s enforcement mechanisms include empowering trading standards officers to issue on-the-spot fines of more than $120 to shops caught selling tobacco or vapes to underage individuals. Revenue generated from these fines would be allocated toward further enforcement efforts.

Older smokers can continue buying tobacco until they quit or pass away, but the new bill aims to gradually raise the legal purchase age each year for younger generations, effectively prohibiting them from buying cigarettes. Vaping products, though exempt from the ban, would undergo packaging changes to make them less appealing, the Washington Post added.

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins underscored the imperative of the legislation, emphasizing that “there is no liberty in addiction.” She championed the measure as a means to foster a “smoke-free generation,” citing the detrimental impact of nicotine addiction on personal autonomy.

The proposal comes amid concerning statistics that underscore the devastating toll of tobacco use in the UK, claiming the lives of two-thirds of long-term users and resulting in 80,000 deaths annually, according to the BBC.

Smoking-related hospital admissions occur at an alarming rate, with nearly one admission per minute in England alone.

However, key leaders of the Conservative Party, such as former Prime Ministers Liz Truss and Boris Johnson, opposed the ban. Johnson labeled it as “absolutely nuts,” decrying what he perceived as an infringement on personal freedom.

Former minister Sir Jake Berry voiced concerns over governmental intrusion into personal decisions, prioritizing individual freedom over paternalistic measures. In response, Atkins highlighted the dangerous nature of nicotine addiction, particularly among young smokers.

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