How did my MP vote on the UK smoking ban? Rishi Sunak’s Tobacco and Vapes Bill explained

MPs have voted in favour of bringing in a lifetime smoking ban in the UK, as part of the Tobacco and Vape Bill. Find out how your MP voted at the bottom of the page.
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If passed, the UK would become the first country in the world to make cigarette sales illegal for an entire generation. New Zealand had proposed a similar law, however this was repealed after the general election last year.

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Rishi Sunak has been a long advocate for banning smoking, first announcing the policy at the Conservative Party Conference last year. At the time, he said: “Smoking places huge pressures on the NHS and costs our country £17 billion a year. We have a chance to cut cancer deaths by a quarter, significantly ease those pressures and protect our children, and we should take it.”

For a second reading, the Tobacco and Vapes Bill was passed with 383 MPs in favour and 67 against. The vote in Parliament was a free vote, meaning MPs could vote based on their conscience and did not need to tow party lines. Fifty-seven Tory MPs defied the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister faced opposition from his right-wing and libertarian colleagues, with his predecessor Liz Truss describing the legislation as “virtue signalling”. Former Cabinet minister Sir Simon Clarke said the ban risks “making smoking cooler” and “creating a black market”.

Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch became the first member of the current Cabinet to say she would vote against it. She said: “We should not treat legally competent adults differently in this way, where people born a day apart will have permanently different rights. Among other reasons it will create difficulties with enforcement. This burden will fall not on the state but on private businesses.”

Rishi Sunak wants to ban smoking for a generation. Credit: Kim Mogg/GettyRishi Sunak wants to ban smoking for a generation. Credit: Kim Mogg/Getty
Rishi Sunak wants to ban smoking for a generation. Credit: Kim Mogg/Getty

What is the Tobacco and Vapes Bill?

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The bill would make it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born after 1 January 2009, with the aim of creating a “smoke-free” generation. The government says that smoking itself would not be criminalised and anyone who can legally buy tobacco would never be prevented from doing so in the future.

The rationale is that smoking is the UK’s single biggest preventable killer and costs the NHS and economy an estimated £17 billion a year. Tobacco taxation brings in around £10 billion to the Exchequer annually.

Smoking is responsible for 80,000 deaths every year, the government says, while four in five smokers start before the age of 20 and remain addicted for their entire lives. Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said: “Nicotine robs people of their freedom to choose. The vast majority of smokers start when they are young, and three-quarters say that if they could turn back the clock they would not have started.”

She told the Commons: “That is why, through this bill, we are creating a smoke-free generation that will guarantee that no-one who is turning 15 or younger this year will ever be legally sold tobacco, saving them from the misery of repeated attempts to give up, making our economy more productive and building an NHS that delivers faster, simpler and fairer care. I would argue it is our responsibility, indeed our duty, to protect the next generation and this is what this bill will do.”

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The bill would also give the government new powers to tackle youth vaping by restricting flavours and regulating the way that vapes are sold and packaged to make them less appealing to children.

Trading standards officers will be given new powers to issue on-the-spot fines to retailers unlawfully selling tobacco or vapes to children. This follows the government’s previous commitment to ban the sale of disposable vapes, which will be done by amending current legislation. That ban is planned to take effect from April 2025.

Ailsa Rutter.Ailsa Rutter.
Ailsa Rutter.

What have experts said about the smoking ban?

Sunak’s smoking ban has been praised by public health experts and campaigners. Chief Medical Office Prof Chris Whitty commented: “Smoking kills and causes harm at all stages of life from stillbirths, asthma in children, stroke, cancer to heart attacks and dementia. This bill, if passed, will have a substantial impact - preventing disease, disability and premature deaths long into the future.”

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), said that the public backs a smoking ban. “The Tobacco and Vapes Bill being voted on today is radical but, hard as it is now to believe, so were the smoke-free laws when they were put before parliament. Parliamentarians can be reassured that the public they represent back the bill,” she explained.

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“New research just published by Ash shows that the majority of tobacco retailers and the public, including smokers, support the legislation and the smoke-free generation ambition it is designed to deliver.  This historic legislation will consign smoking to the ‘ash heap of history’.”

Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh and Balance, said: “Most people who smoke get addicted young and regret it bitterly. This is about giving our next generation a life free of a cancer-causing addiction which costs tens of thousands of pounds over a lifetime, and ends up killing two out of three.”

Cathy Hunt and her daughter. Cathy Hunt and her daughter.
Cathy Hunt and her daughter.

Cathy Hunt, 57, was diagnosed with lung cancer and had half a lung removed in 2015 just two days before her 50th birthday. She underwent surgery again in 2022 when the cancer returned, and in June 2023 had a kidney removed due to cancer. 

The mum-of-four from County Durham said: “Tobacco companies lied to the public about the risks of smoking and got women like myself hooked with all the glamorous advertising, the boxes, the slim cigarettes. Thanks to them, women are now overtaking men for lung cancer.

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“They continue to get more and more young smokers hooked today to replace people like me. I am absolutely over the moon that they are planning to raise the age of sale for tobacco. Too many people are becoming ill and dying from smoking. We now have a chance to stop the start.”

How did my MP vote on the Tobacco and Vapes Bill smoking ban?

MPs passed the second reading of the Tobacco and Vapes Bill, with 383 voting in favour and 67 voting against. This is the first time Parliamentarians have had the chance to vote on the smoking ban. Next MPs will be able to scrutinise the bill in more detail, before another vote at the third reading.

The Prime Minister urged MPs to “vote with their conscience”, Downing Street said. Sunak’s official spokesman said: “As the PM has said previously, we respect that people’s attitudes to smoking are a matter of conscience. That’s why the votes on this policy will be free votes.”

Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting said he was “shocked” to see the Conservatives propose a tobacco ban but confirmed Labour is giving its “wholehearted” support to the bill. He added that his party is “only too happy to defend the Health Secretary (Victoria Atkins) against the siren voices of big tobacco” gathered on the Tory benches.

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Find out how your MP voted with our searchable interactive table.

Ralph Blackburn is NationalWorld’s politics editor based in Westminster, where he gets special access to Parliament, MPs and government briefings. If you liked this article you can follow Ralph on X (Twitter) here and sign up to his free weekly newsletter Politics Uncovered, which brings you the latest analysis and gossip from Westminster every Sunday morning.

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