REEM IBRAHIM: If the world’s biggest nanny state won’t ban smoking, how does Rishi Sunak hope to? New Zealand ditched law introduced by Covid-queen Jacinda Ardern before it even took effect

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Parliament last night voted to ban tobacco sales for anyone born on or after 1st January 2009, in a landmark move.

Rishi Sunak — the architect of Britain’s hotly-contested policy — said the goal was to prevent tomorrow’s children from taking up cigarettes, effectively creating a ‘smoke-free’ generation that kills off the tobacco industry for good.

But how on earth does he plan on enforcing it? Even the world’s biggest nanny state, New Zealand, had to bin the very same proposal.

The idea was first proposed by ex-Kiwi prime minister Jacinda Arden in the dying days of her premiership.

It came shortly after she and her left-leaning administration adopted some of the most draconian and damaging lockdowns in the world, with New Zealand turned into a ‘hermit kingdom’ with borders completely shut under the false belief that such a tough stance would keep Covid out.

Reem Ibrahim: ‘Rishi Sunak — the architect of Britain’s hotly-contested policy — said the goal was to prevent tomorrow’s children from taking up cigarettes, effectively creating a ‘smoke-free’ generation that kills off the tobacco industry for good. But how on earth does he plan on enforcing it?’

The idea was first proposed by ex-Kiwi prime minister Jacinda Arden in the dying days of her premiership. It came shortly after she and her left-leaning administration adopted some of the most draconian and damaging lockdowns in the world, with New Zealand turned into a 'hermit kingdom'

The idea was first proposed by ex-Kiwi prime minister Jacinda Arden in the dying days of her premiership. It came shortly after she and her left-leaning administration adopted some of the most draconian and damaging lockdowns in the world, with New Zealand turned into a ‘hermit kingdom’

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

Following a recent change of heart, New Zealand scrapped the plans, meaning that the UK is now going at it alone.

The Kiwi turnaround came just weeks after the Malaysian government abandoned a similar policy due to their constitutional protection against age discrimination.

Christopher Luxon, New Zealand’s new prime minister, explained the ban would have created an ‘opportunity for a black market to emerge’, fearing it would cost the Government around $1billion (£470m) in lost revenues.

Ironically, many younger Brits will likely keep smoking but without having to pay the levies associated with covering the costs to the NHS.

The generational tobacco ban is often framed around preventing children from taking up cigarettes. 

But this, of course, is already illegal. In practice, it’s really about preventing future adults from making decisions about their own bodies.

The phasing-in of the ban over time will create two classes of adults. In the not too distant future, we will find ourselves in an absurd position where it would be legal for a 31 year-old to buy tobacco products, but illegal for a 30 year-old.

It is, of course, extremely naive to actually believe that the policy will actually create a ‘smoke-free generation,’ as Mr Sunak has claimed.

It will start with younger generations bumming cigarettes off their older siblings. 

It will proceed by creating a massive new black market, enriching tobacco smugglers and criminal gangs, whilst doing little actually to reduce smoking rates.

As the US learnt during the infamous Prohibition era, banning products with potential negative personal or societal effects is a double-edged sword. It expands the illegal black

market for these goods, unregulated and unsafe. Pumping money into organised criminal enterprises fuels corruption and yet more crime.

It’s not like there isn’t already an emerging black market in tobacco.

The UK’s extraordinarily high tobacco taxes and other restrictions have resulted in the development of a growing illicit market HMRC estimates that one in nine manufactured cigarettes and one in three hand-rolled cigarettes were bought illegally. 

The black market currently serves consumers who simply don’t want to pay high prices.

With the tobacco ban, these criminals will have a whole host of new customers that the government have banished from the legal market.

Christopher Luxon (pictured), New Zealand's new prime minister, explained the ban would have created an 'opportunity for a black market to emerge', fearing it would cost the Government around $1billion (£470m) in lost revenues

Christopher Luxon (pictured), New Zealand’s new prime minister, explained the ban would have created an ‘opportunity for a black market to emerge’, fearing it would cost the Government around $1billion (£470m) in lost revenues

It’s ironic that the government is banning tobacco just as society is skipping the habit and taking up safer alternatives, like vaping.

The Government’s Khan review from 2022, which itself proposed a ban on tobacco, admitted that even without further intervention smoking rates would fall to 2 per cent by 2050. 

In a bizarre contradiction, the baseline used by the government’s model for their new generational ban predicted smoking rates to fall to 8 per cent by 2050.

Where are these numbers coming from? Was it plucked out of thin air?

Even the country that elected Ms Arden, the country that pursued a zero-covid policy at the cost of all personal freedoms for so long, couldn’t bring themselves to ban tobacco.

The fact that the UK, led by the party of Winston Churchill, is now banning tobacco tells us everything we need to know about the dangerous nannying slippery slope we seem to be going down.

Reem Ibrahim is the Communications Officer at the Institute of Economic Affairs. 

Rishi SunakNew Zealand

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