Britain should bin its ‘absurd’ smoking ban after New Zealand U-turned on its trail-blazing policy, experts said today.

New Zealand was gearing up to progressively raise the legal age that people could purchase tobacco, in what would have been a world-first.

Brought in under ex-Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, darling of the global left, the radical scheme would have prohibited children born after 2009 from ever legally being able to buy cigarettes.

But the new PM Christopher Luxon, head of a newly elected Conservative coalition Government, has confirmed plans to formally repeal it next week.

Now critics of Rishi Sunak’s plan to bring in England’s own generational smoking ban have urged MPs to ditch his ‘vanity project’. 

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 2023 health report showed 12.7 per cent of Brits over the age of 15 smoke cigarettes daily, higher than the US and New Zealand. The latter was set to implement its new smoking ban from July

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 2023 health report showed 12.7 per cent of Brits over the age of 15 smoke cigarettes daily, higher than the US and New Zealand. The latter was set to implement its new smoking ban from July

Critics of UK PM Rishi Sunak's plan to bring in England's own generational smoking ban have urged MPs to ditch his 'vanity project' in wake of New Zealand's abandonment of its policy

Critics of UK PM Rishi Sunak’s plan to bring in England’s own generational smoking ban have urged MPs to ditch his ‘vanity project’ in wake of New Zealand’s abandonment of its policy

Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at conservative thinktank, the Institute of Economic Affairs, said it showed how foolhardy the UK’s pursuit of a similar ban was. 

‘In New Zealand, the generational tobacco ban was an authoritarian remnant of Jacinda Ardern’s left-wing government,’ he said. 

‘The new government realised that prohibition doesn’t work and rightly ditched it. 

‘The UK is now the only country in the world that takes this absurd idea seriously.’

Mr Snowdon urged MPs to put a stop to what he called Mr Sunak’s ‘vanity project’.

‘Mr Sunak is unlikely to be Prime Minister when the damage done by his prohibition starts to bite,’ he said. 

HISTORY OF SMOKING POLICY IN THE UK 

2004: Ireland bans smoking in enclosed public places, including pubs, clubs and restaurants 

2006: Scotland implements smoking ban on indoor public spaces

2007: England, Wales and Northern Ireland bring in indoor ban. In England, smoking is banned in almost all enclosed public spaces and the NHS goes smoke-free. Legal age to buy cigarettes raised from 16 to 18

2008: Cigarette companies told to feature pictorial health warnings on packets

2010: Government announces it will enforce tobacco display ban and consider plain packaging for tobacco products

2015: Smoking in cars with children banned in England and ban on the display of tobacco in small shops comes into force throughout the UK

2017: Government issues target to reduce smoking prevalence among adults to 12 per cent or less by 2022

2019: Department of Health publishes plans to make England smoke-free by 2030

2020: Menthol cigarettes are banned in the UK and EU

‘Sensible MPs should take the opportunity of a free vote in Parliament and put a stop to his vanity project.’

Maxwell Marlow, director of research at thinktank the Adam Smith Institute, added: ‘New Zealand’s world-first smoking ban should have only ever been the world’s last smoking ban at most.

‘It should come as no surprise that it’s been repealed altogether.

‘Completely aside from the infringement on our liberties that the UK’s proposed generational ban represents, it is far more likely to increase, rather than reduce, public health harms, by driving smokers into the arms of criminals operating in the black market and their potentially far more dangerous products.

‘New Zealand’s Conservative government realised the errors of this approach; we must hope that it’s only a matter of time before our own does the same.’

Mr Sunak announced his bold plan to wipe out smoking in England at the Tory party conference in September last year.

His proposal mirrored the Kiwis’, a progressive raising on the legal age of purchase for tobacco products, so that person born after 2009, about 14 today, would never be able to legally buy cigarettes.

The Government announcement that followed boasted how this would essentially eradicate smoking in young people in England by 2040. 

While celebrated by health charities, the policy was savagely criticised by thinktanks, as well as some within Mr Sunak’s own party, as being a remarkably un-conservative and nanny-state attack on people’s liberties. 

They also warned that it would only drive future smokers into the arms of the black market.

Charities and experts said Mr Sunak’s smoking ban will save tens of thousands of lives from preventable causes linked to smoking, such as cancer, heart attacks and strokes.

Cancer Research UK’s chief executive Michelle Mitchell said in November: ‘Smoking rates fall when leaders take decisive action: that’s why we support the UK Government’s commitment to changing the age of sale of tobacco announced in the King’s Speech today.

‘The Government should move to bring this legislation before Parliament in early 2024, and we call on MPs from all parties to support it.

‘I’ve never met anyone who wants their child to take up smoking. Cancer Research UK estimates that there are around 885,000 16–24-year-olds smoking in the UK today.’

The Government itself claims, if enacted, the phased ban will lead to 1.7million fewer people smoking by 2075 – saving tens of thousands of lives, and avoiding avoid up to 115,000 cases of strokes, heart disease, lung cancer and other lung diseases. 

The new coalition government elected in October confirmed the repeal will happen on Tuesday as a matter of urgency, enabling it to scrap the law without seeking public comment, in line with previously announced plans. Pictured: New Zealand PM Christopher Luxon

The new coalition government elected in October confirmed the repeal will happen on Tuesday as a matter of urgency, enabling it to scrap the law without seeking public comment, in line with previously announced plans. Pictured: New Zealand PM Christopher Luxon

In further justifying the policy, the Government also wielded statistics claiming that smoking costs the economy £17billion a year through lost productivity and knock-on effects to the NHS.

But one potential casualty of the policy is tobacco duties, which officials estimate will raise £10.4billion for the Treasury this year. That amount will inevitably decrease under the PM’s plan.

The phased smoking ban is part of the Government’s efforts to make England ‘smoke free’ by 2030 — defined as less than 5 per cent of the adult population smoking.

How dangerous is smoking for the heart? 

How does tobacco damage the heart?  

Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including tar and others that can narrow arteries and damage blood vessels.

While nicotine – a highly addictive toxin found in tobacco – is heavily linked with dangerous increases in heart rate and blood pressure.

Smoking also unleashes poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide, which replaces oxygen in the blood – reducing the availability of oxygen for the heart.

How many people does smoking kill?  

Smoking is known to kill more than seven million people across the world each year, including 890,000 from breathing in second-hand smoke.

But many people are unaware that nearly half of those deaths, around three million, are due to heart disease, including heart attacks and strokes.

It was originally touted in a major 2022 review led by Dr Javed Khan to reduce smoking in England but was met with a lukewarm reception. 

New Zealand’s Associate Health Minister Casey Costello said the new coalition government was still committed to reducing smoking in New Zealand.

But she added it was taking a different regulatory approach.

‘I will soon be taking a package of measures to cabinet to increase the tools available to help people quit smoking,’ she said. 

The decision has been heavily criticised over its likely impact on health outcomes in New Zealand, and has also drawn flak over fears it could have a greater impact on Maori and Pasifika populations, groups with higher smoking rates.

Smoking is well established as increasing the risk of several serious lung conditions as well as diseases like cancer. 

The habit is linked to 64,000 deaths in the UK each year.

On cancer specifically cancer accounts for a quarter of total deaths from the disease, and 70 per cent of all lung cancer cases.

Smoking’s impact on the cardiovascular system also increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

The latest data from the Office for National Statistics show traditional smoking is already on the decline in the UK.

It found just 12.9 per cent of adults, around 6.4million people, smoked cigarettes in 2022.

This is the lowest proportion of the adult population since records began in 2011.

People aged 25 to 34 years were the most likely to be smokers last year at 16.3 per cent with Brits aged 65 years and over the least at just 8.3 per cent.

Historically, overall smoking rates in the UK are far lower than their peak in the 70s when about two in five adults were smokers.

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