Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was seen with a cigar. And the English top model Kate Moss likes to have a cigarette. Smoking was long taken for granted in Great Britain. But the government in London wants to better protect society and is now taking a far-reaching step. She wants to prohibit future generations from buying tobacco products legally.

In the second reading, the British House of Commons voted by a majority of 383 votes to 67 in favor of a corresponding bill. However, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government also encountered considerable resistance within its own party. However, she received support from the opposition.

“Nicotine robs people of their free will. The vast majority of smokers start when they are young and three quarters say they would not have started if they could turn back the clock,” Health Minister Victoria Atkins said at the debate on Tuesday House of Commons. It is the responsibility and duty of the government to protect the coming generation, she added.

How the sales ban should work

The government wants to make it illegal to buy tobacco for people born after January 1, 2009. To achieve this, the minimum age, which is currently 18, is to be gradually increased. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s goal is to ensure that no one who turns 15 or younger this year will ever be able to legally purchase tobacco products. Smoking itself should not be banned – adults who smoke today can still buy cigarettes – but it should be made almost impossible for future generations.

According to government figures, the smoking rate in the 14 to 30 year old group could be close to zero by 2040. Atkins argues the law will save thousands of lives, reduce pressure on the NHS and increase the UK’s productivity. In Great Britain, tens of thousands of people die every year as a result of smoking.

Sunak faces resistance within his own ranks

But Sunak has to prevail against fierce resistance from within his own ranks. He did not impose any party pressure on the vote. Economy Minister Kemi Badenoch, who is already considered a promising candidate to succeed him, announced via X (formerly Twitter) that she would vote against the bill. Dozens of other Conservatives stood against Sunak.

Sunak’s direct predecessor at the top of the party and government, Liz Truss, also criticized the project as an infringement on the right of self-determination of adults. Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is no longer a member of the House of Commons, said: “When I look at some of the things that we are doing now or that are being done in the name of conservatism, I think they are absolutely crazy.”

Conservative MP Nick Fletcher spoke of a nanny state that patronizes its citizens. “If we take more and more decisions out of adults’ hands, more and more adults will increasingly rely on the state to make decisions for them. That’s not a good thing (…),” said Flechter.

Do bans only make smoking cooler?

Conservative MP Simon Clarke fears a ban could be counterproductive. Everyone agrees that smoking is bad, the science is clear on that. “There are good ways to tackle a problem like this and there are bad ways,” he told the BBC.

With a ban, there is a risk that smoking will become cooler, a black market will arise and the authorities will be faced with major challenges. He advocated using education and taxes to dissuade people from smoking instead. Once you start with bans, you run the risk of banning other things too.

Vaping should also be more strictly regulated

The draft also plans to make e-cigarettes less attractive to young people. Sweet flavors and bright packaging, which primarily appeal to minors, should be restricted. Disposable e-cigarettes are to be banned entirely under a separate law.

Attitudes towards smoking have also changed significantly in Germany. Compared to 1991, cigarette sales fell by more than half. The smoke has disappeared from restaurants. And recordings of regular smoking on television talk shows are now a thing of the past, as are smoking politicians like Churchill, who died in 1965.