The Spectator

Did Rishi Sunak need to introduce a smoking ban?

(Photo: Getty)

To the surprise of some, the Prime Minister used his conference speech in Manchester last year to announce a New Zealand-style lifelong ban on the sale of tobacco products to anyone born after a cut-off date of 31 December 2008. The ban, which has since been announced in the King’s Speech as the Tobacco and Vapes Bill, could apply to all tobacco products: cigars, pipe and heated tobacco included. The Bill also introduces restrictions on the sale of vapes, though not an outright ban.

Is the ban necessary, is it practical, and what are the political motivations behind it? This was the subject of a roundtable discussion held at The Spectator’s offices, sponsored by Philip Morris International.

Philip Morris, explained the company’s External Affairs Director Duncan Cunningham, has already embarked on a strategy to reduce harm from smoking. Already, 35 per cent of its global revenues come from what it calls ‘reduced risk’ products – notably heated tobacco in the form of a product known as Iqos. In contrast to vapes, this uses real tobacco. But unlike traditional, combustible cigarettes it does not burn the tobacco. The result, it is claimed, is that the user inhales 95 per cent fewer harmful chemicals. Heated tobacco has only been around in earnest for the past five years, so there is little real-world data on its health effects. Heated tobacco products will, nonetheless, be covered by the proposed ban.

Some have queried the point of banning cigarettes, given that smoking is in sharp decline anyway. The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey shows that the rate of smoking among adults has fallen to 13 per cent (6.5 million people), and that only 8 per cent of the adult population smoke every day – with the sharpest fall over the past 15 years among women.

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