Chris Whitty warns Liz Truss and pro-libertarian critics of Rishi Sunak’s tough smoking ban that children will needlessly die unless drastic plan goes ahead

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Chris Whitty today urged Liz Truss and her pro-libertarian allies not to oppose Rishi Sunak’s flagship smoking ban.

In a stark warning, England’s chief medical officer claimed children’s lives are at risk without the drastic plan and said it has ‘enormous public health benefit’.

Under the crackdown, which will be formally unveiled today in Parliament, kids born after 2009 will never legally be able to buy tobacco.

The law would also hand ministers power to restrict the flavours and promotion of vapes in an effort to thwart the UK’s child e-cig epidemic.  

This could change how nicotine-laden vapes are displayed in shops, moving them away from other products such as sweets.

In a stark warning, England’s chief medical officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty (pictured), claimed children’s lives are at risk without the drastic plan and said it has ‘enormous public health benefit’. Under the crackdown, which will be formally unveiled today in Parliament, kids born after 2009 will never legally be able to buy tobacco. The law would also hand ministers power to restrict the flavours and promotion of vapes in an effort to thwart the UK’s child e-cig epidemic 

Figures show one in five children has tried vaping despite it being illegal for under-18s, while the number of children using vapes has tripled in the past three years. Yet the smoking proposals have long been criticised as 'illiberal' by critics, led by former PM Liz Truss (pictured). Lobbyists now believe as many as 80 to 100 MPs are uncomfortable about the plans ¿ although it is unclear how many would actually vote against them

Figures show one in five children has tried vaping despite it being illegal for under-18s, while the number of children using vapes has tripled in the past three years. Yet the smoking proposals have long been criticised as ‘illiberal’ by critics, led by former PM Liz Truss (pictured). Lobbyists now believe as many as 80 to 100 MPs are uncomfortable about the plans — although it is unclear how many would actually vote against them 

Council officers will also be given powers to dole out £100 on-the-spot fines to shops caught breaking the rules. 

Figures show one in five children has tried vaping despite it being illegal for under-18s, while the number of children using vapes has tripled in the past three years.

Yet the smoking proposals have long been criticised as ‘illiberal’ by critics, led by former PM Ms Truss. 

Lobbyists now believe as many as 80 to 100 MPs are uncomfortable about the plans  — although it is unclear how many would actually vote against them.

Writing for The Times, Sir Chris and 26 other current and former medical chiefs, said: ‘To be pro-individual choice should mean being against the deliberate addiction of children, young people and young adults to something that will harm them, potentially fatally.

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.

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‘Over the life course, addiction to smoking damages individuals, families and society. 

‘From stillbirth in pregnant women through asthma in children due to passive smoking, heart disease, stroke, lung disease, diabetes and 15 different types of cancer to dementia, smoking blights lives.’

He added: ‘The NHS carries the burden of trying to undo some of the damage smoking causes. 

‘Parliament is about to debate a bill that will, if passed, produce enormous public health benefit and we hope, lead to a smoke-free generation.’ 

In his article, backed by Professor Sir Gregor Smith, Professor Sir Frank Atherton and Professor Sir Michael McBride, his counterparts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Sir Chris also urged MPs to back the legislation to help end the ‘flagrant marketing of vapes to children using colours, flavours and packaging’. 

‘The overwhelming majority of doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers, who have seen the misery nicotine addiction causes, will support the bill,’ he added.  

‘Vapes can help smokers quit. But if you don’t smoke, our advice is don’t vape.’

When Mr Sunak formally announced the bold proposal in November, he faced criticism from some vocal nay-sayers, including ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage and former PM Boris Johnson who called it a ‘smoking apartheid’.

Meanwhile, in January Ms Truss said the Government ‘should not be seeking to extend the nanny state’.

She added: ‘While the state has a duty to protect children from harm, in a free society adults must be able to make their own choices about their own lives.

‘Banning the sale of tobacco products to anyone born in 2009 or later will create an absurd situation where adults enjoy different rights based on their birthdate.’

The Government, however, has wielded stats showing how smoking costs the economy £17bn a year through lost productivity and knock-on effects to the NHS.

For comparison, tobacco duties generate around £10billion annually.

Under the proposals, funding packages of up to £140million to support people quitting smoking will also be made available from April. 

The Government believes that, 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. Mr Sunak has also insisted that smoking will not be criminalised, suggesting that Brits subject to the ban won't be fined for buying them abroad

The Government believes that, 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. Mr Sunak has also insisted that smoking will not be criminalised, suggesting that Brits subject to the ban won’t be fined for buying them abroad

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, far higher than the US and New Zealand, the latter of which recently introduced a similar phased smoking ban

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, far higher than the US and New Zealand, the latter of which recently introduced a similar phased smoking ban

Tests on e-cigarettes confiscated from youngsters found they contained dangerous levels of lead, nickel and chromium. Some were almost ten times above safe limits. Exposure to lead can impair brain development, while the other two metals can trigger blood clotting

Tests on e-cigarettes confiscated from youngsters found they contained dangerous levels of lead, nickel and chromium. Some were almost ten times above safe limits. Exposure to lead can impair brain development, while the other two metals can trigger blood clotting

The Government believes that, 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.

Mr Sunak has also insisted that smoking will not be criminalised, suggesting that Brits subject to the ban won’t be fined for buying them abroad.

Under his wider crackdown, vapes are expected to be limited to four flavours, sold in plain, tobacco-style packaging and displayed out of sight of kids. 

New ‘on the spot’ £100 fines would also be brought in for shops illegally selling vapes to children.

At the time, experts and charities all commended the move, described as the ‘biggest public health intervention in a generation’. 

The smoking ban was initially recommended in a Government-commissioned report last year by ex-children’s charity chief Javed Khan. 

He was tasked with finding ways England could be smoke-free by 2030 — defined as less than five per cent of people smoking.

He warned that that without urgent action, England would miss the 2030 ‘smoke-free’ target by at least seven years, with the poorest areas not meeting it until 2044. 

Smoking rates in the UK are now the lowest on record, at 12.9 per cent — or around 6.4million people.  

Last year a spokesman for the Department of Health said that tackling smoking issues was a 'priority' for the office. Here is a list of actions recommended in a landmark Government backed report

 Last year a spokesman for the Department of Health said that tackling smoking issues was a ‘priority’ for the office. Here is a list of actions recommended in a landmark Government backed report

Latest ONS figures show the number of people smoking cigarettes in the UK has dropped to a record low. In total 6.4million adults in the UK ¿ or 12.9 per cent ¿ smoked in 2022. This is the lowest number since records began in 2011 and is a drop on the 13.3 per cent reported in 2021

Latest ONS figures show the number of people smoking cigarettes in the UK has dropped to a record low. In total 6.4million adults in the UK — or 12.9 per cent — smoked in 2022. This is the lowest number since records began in 2011 and is a drop on the 13.3 per cent reported in 2021

But smoking kills around 78,000 people in the UK every year, with many more living with illnesses due to their habit — half of which are due to cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack and stroke. 

It is estimated that around 500,000 hospital admissions every year in England are attributable to smoking and that smoking costs the economy £17billion per year.

E-cigs allow people to inhale nicotine in a vapour — which is produced by heating a liquid, which typically contains propylene glycol, glycerine, flavourings, and other chemicals.

Unlike traditional cigarettes, they do not contain tobacco, nor do they produce tar or carbon — two of the most dangerous elements.

Although widely viewed as safer than smoking, the long-term effects of vaping still remain a mystery.

Doctors have expressed fear there could be a wave of lung disease, dental issues and even cancer in the coming decades in people who took up the habit at a young age.

Last year leading paediatricians also warned children were being hospitalised with vaping-induced breathing difficulties amid a ‘disturbing’ youth vaping epidemic.

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

2023: Rishi Sunak’s unveils radical plan to effectively ban kids born after 2009 from smoking

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