Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Whitty: Arguments against plan to ban youngsters from smoking ‘surprising’

Chief medical officer Sir Chris Whitty (Aaron Chown/PA)
Chief medical officer Sir Chris Whitty (Aaron Chown/PA)

England’s chief medical officer rejected “pro-choice” arguments from Tory MPs opposed to Rishi Sunak’s plans to ban young people from ever smoking.

Professor Sir Chris Whitty said cigarettes were a product “designed to take your choice away” and resistance to the plan was “surprising”.

The Prime Minister has granted his MPs a free vote on the issue later on Tuesday, with several expected to reject the plan – although with Labour supporting it, the measure is likely to comfortably clear its first Commons hurdle.

Popular Conservatism movement launch
Former prime minister Liz Truss is among the senior Tories who have criticised the plan (Victoria Jones/PA)

The plan, which would make it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born after January 1 2009, was announced by the Prime Minister in his speech to the Conservative Party conference last year.

But it has attracted condemnation from senior Conservatives including former prime ministers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, who argue it impacts upon people’s freedoms.

But Sir Chris told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “This is a really serious health problem. And the reason this is doubly problematic is that the majority, the great majority, of smokers wish they had never started, but they become addicted at an early age and then they’re trapped and their choice has been taken away by that addiction.

“This is one of the reasons why the argument that ‘if you’re pro-choice, you’re in favour of cigarettes’ is so surprising, because this is a product which is designed to take your choice away from you.”

He added: “The aim of this legislation … is to ensure that no children 15 or below actually become addicted to smoking, or at least cannot be legally sold cigarettes.

“And we do expect that, over time, to lead to, essentially, smoking dying out almost completely, which would be an enormous public health achievement.”

Laura Farris
Laura Farris said it had taken her years to quit smoking (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Home Office minister Laura Farris also rejected the arguments made by her fellow Conservatives.

Ms Farris said: “I think this is a very, very sensible policy and I’m not particularly interested in arguments about freedom on this one.”

The minister, who took up smoking at 12, told LBC: “It took me years and years and years to quit. It’s one of my biggest regrets, actually.

“I’ve got two young kids now and the fact that they will never be able to walk into a shop and buy a packet of cigarettes is something I welcome.

“I have never met a single smoker who’s glad they did it, wishes that their children do it, can identify a single health benefit or any other life benefit.

“It gets you hooked. It’s a horrible habit. And even when you’re doing it, you know that you’re causing yourself irreparable harm. And it’s incredibly difficult to get off.”

Ms Truss has said the ban is “profoundly unconservative” while Mr Johnson described it as “nuts”.

Conservative MPs have been granted a free vote on the Tobacco and Vapes Bill, meaning they will not have to follow party orders to back it.

Former Cabinet minister Sir Simon Clarke said: “We need a lot more liberalism and a lot less statism.

“Let’s educate young people about the harm of tobacco. Let’s make it unattractive by banning glamorising adverts and taxing it.

“But let’s not ban it. An enforcement nightmare and a slippery slope – alcohol next?”

Ahead of the debate, doctors and health charities urged MPs to vote in favour of the proposals, which would ensure that nobody aged 15 or under today would ever be able to legally buy tobacco products.

Professor Steve Turner, president of the Royal College for Paediatrics and Child Health, said the Bill would “without a doubt … save lives”.

He said: “By stopping children and young people from becoming addicted to nicotine and tobacco, we decrease their chances of developing preventable diseases later in life, and will protect children from the harms of nicotine addiction.

“As paediatricians, we strongly urge MPs to use the important responsibility they have and support this Bill to protect children’s and our nation’s current and future health.”

Charmaine Griffiths, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, said: “Decisive action is needed to end this ongoing public health tragedy – we urge every MP to vote for this landmark legislation at the Bill’s second reading.”

As well as raising the smoking age every year, the legislation includes provisions that will regulate the display, contents, flavours and packaging of vapes and nicotine products.

Smoking kills about 80,000 people a year and costs the NHS and the economy an estimated £17 billion annually.

According to the Government, creating a “smokefree generation” could prevent more than 470,000 cases of heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and other diseases by the end of the century.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said: “Rishi Sunak is too weak to stand up to the Liz Truss wing of his party, so has given his MPs a free vote.

“Though Tory MPs may oppose this measure, Labour will not play politics with public health. Labour will vote through this Bill, so that young people today are even less likely to smoke than they are to vote Tory.”