May 16, 2024
Rishi Sunak’s proposed anti-smoking bill has sparked significant debate and garnered both support and opposition. With the aim of creating the UK’s first smoke-free generation, the bill proposes stringent measures to curb smoking among the youth and regulate vaping. Let’s have a look into the details of this landmark legislation, exploring its key provisions, arguments for and against, and its journey through the parliamentary process.

What Does the Bill Entail?

Rishi Sunak’s tobacco and vapes bill targets individuals born after 2009, prohibiting them from purchasing cigarettes. Additionally, it seeks to make vaping less enticing to young people. However, it does not outlaw smoking entirely for those currently eligible to buy tobacco products.

The legislation will incrementally raise the age of tobacco sale each year, aiming to prevent today’s youth from ever taking up smoking.

Arguments in Favour

Health leaders and medical professionals advocate for the bill, citing its potential to save thousands of lives and prevent numerous smoking-related diseases. The government emphasises the economic burden of smoking on the UK and aims to create a smoke-free generation by 2040.

Supporters argue that by deterring young people from nicotine addiction, the bill will lead to significant long-term public health benefits, reducing healthcare costs and improving overall well-being.

Opposition Voices

Some Conservative MPs, including former Prime Minister Liz Truss and Boris Johnson, have voiced concerns, labelling the bill as intrusive and impractical. Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch highlights issues of enforcement and equality, arguing against treating adults differently based on their birthdates.

Critics also raise questions about the potential for unintended consequences, such as a rise in illicit tobacco trade, and argue for a more balanced approach that respects individual freedoms while addressing public health concerns.

Legislative Process

The bill passed its first stage in the House of Commons with a big win, even though some members of the Conservative Party opposed it. But its journey through Parliament isn’t certain yet. There might be changes and more discussions in the next few months. Members of Parliament (MPs) can suggest changes to make sure the bill is good for public health and people’s rights.

The final vote in the House of Lords is scheduled for June. But before that, the bill has to go through more steps in the House of Commons. On 16 April, MPs talked about the bill and voted on it for the first time. It passed with a big majority, thanks to support from the Labour party.

Now, there will be more discussions where MPs can suggest changes to the bill. Then in May, there will be a vote on those changes, followed by another vote on the final version of the bill.

Will the bill face political problems? Some Conservative MPs and ministers, like Badenoch, Julia Lopez, and others, opposed it. Some MPs didn’t vote for other reasons, like being away. Critics of the bill might try to slow it down by suggesting many changes. These changes might include making rules for shops that sell vaping products or changing the age rules. Some Conservatives think there will be more opposition from the House of Lords.

Although the House of Lords has blocked other government plans before like the Rwanda Deportation plan, they probably won’t stop this bill in the end.


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Global Context

While the UK aims to implement one of the world’s strictest anti-smoking laws, other countries have also pursued similar initiatives. New Zealand, for instance, recently scrapped a comparable law, while countries like Portugal and Canada have adopted various smoking restrictions.

These global efforts reflect a growing recognition of the need to address tobacco use and its associated health risks on a national and international scale, underscoring the importance of coordinated action and evidence-based policy-making.


The implementation of Rishi Sunak’s anti-smoking bill carries significant implications for public health, the economy, and society at large.

From a public health perspective, the bill represents a proactive measure to tackle smoking-related illnesses and reduce the burden on healthcare systems. By preventing young people from starting smoking, the legislation aims to stem the tide of smoking-related diseases, such as lung cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disorders. This, in turn, could lead to substantial savings in healthcare costs and improve overall population health outcomes.

Economically, the bill could have mixed consequences. While it may result in a decline in tobacco sales and associated tax revenues in the short term, the long-term benefits of a healthier workforce and reduced healthcare expenditures could outweigh these losses. Additionally, the potential for a decrease in productivity due to smoking-related illnesses could be mitigated by a more productive and healthier workforce in the future.

On a societal level, the bill raises important questions about individual freedoms versus collective well-being. While some may view the legislation as an infringement on personal liberty, others see it as a necessary step to protect vulnerable individuals, particularly young people, from the harmful effects of tobacco addiction. Moreover, the bill could contribute to shifting societal norms around smoking, ultimately leading to a cultural shift towards a smoke-free environment.


Rishi Sunak’s anti-smoking bill represents a bold step towards combating tobacco use and promoting public health in the UK. Despite facing political challenges and differing opinions, the legislation underscores the government’s commitment to creating a healthier and smoke-free future for generations to come. As the bill progresses through Parliament, its fate and impact on public health remain subjects of intense debate and scrutiny, highlighting the complex interplay between health policy, individual rights, and societal well-being.

By Mallika Singhal


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