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Why not ban alcohol, sugar and salt?’: Boris Johnson Questions Sunak’s smoking ban logic

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson (left) alongside Chancellor Rishi Sunak during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons.

Boris Johnson has criticised Rishi Sunak’s plan to gradually ban smoking in England, calling it a ‘barmy’ idea that would be a ‘monstrous waste of police time and resources’.

According to a report by Mail Online on Friday, October 6, 2023, the former prime minister, who is now a columnist for the Daily Mail, wrote in his latest article that he was ‘outraged and bemused’ by Mr Sunak’s proposal, which he announced at the Conservative Party conference on Tuesday.

Mr Sunak said he wanted to raise the legal age for buying cigarettes by one year every year, until it applies to the whole population. He said this would mean that a 14-year-old today would never legally be sold a cigarette and that their generation could grow up smoke-free.

Mr Johnson, however, argued that this would be an ‘unprecedented intrusion into people’s personal lives’ and that it would create a ‘black market’ for tobacco products. He also said that it would divert police resources from tackling more serious crimes, such as knife crime and drug trafficking.

He wrote: ‘Let’s stop telling people what to do. Let’s stop increasing the size of the state. Let’s stop imposing new taxes and regulations on businesses and consumers. Let’s stop this barmy plan to ban smoking.’

He added: ‘This is not a Conservative policy. This is not a policy that respects individual freedom and responsibility. This is not a policy that will improve public health or reduce health inequalities. This is a policy that will backfire spectacularly.

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Mr Johnson also accused Mr Sunak of being inconsistent, as he had previously delayed part of the government’s anti-obesity strategy, saying he believed in ‘people’s right to choose’. He said that smoking was no different from eating junk food or drinking alcohol, and that people should be allowed to make their own decisions about their health.

He wrote: ‘If we are going to ban smoking, why not ban alcohol, which causes far more deaths and injuries than tobacco? Why not ban sugar, which is responsible for the obesity epidemic? Why not ban salt, which raises blood pressure and increases the risk of heart disease and stroke?’

He concluded: ‘The answer is simple: because we are not a nanny state. We are a free country. We are a country that trusts people to make their own choices and live with the consequences. We are a country that values liberty, not coercion.

Mr Sunak defended his plan in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday, saying that smoking was ‘unequivocally the single biggest preventable cause of death, disability and illness in our society’. He said that his plan would be the ‘biggest public health intervention in a generation’ and that he did it to save his daughters’ lives.

He said: ‘I don’t want my children or anyone else’s children to grow up in a world where they think smoking is normal or acceptable. I want them to grow up in a world where they never have to see the devastating effects of smoking on themselves or their loved ones.’

He also said that smoking was ‘fundamentally different’ from eating crisps or a piece of cake, because it could not be part of a balanced diet and there was no safe level of smoking.

Labour said it would support Mr Sunak’s plan, saying it would ‘not play politics with public health’. However, some Tory MPs and smokers’ groups expressed their opposition, saying it would infringe on people’s rights and create a black market.

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Birminghamgist Staff is a News Reporter, making waves in the UK with insightful and Engaging reporting.

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