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Abandoning the Tobacco and Vapes Bill would betray a generation

Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK
by Michelle Mitchell | Opinion

28 May 2024

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A stack of cigarettes, one of them smoking


I write this as I’m waiting for my son to get home from school. He’s 15 in a few months, about to make the decisions some teenagers make about the future – exam prep, A-levels, university. And as a parent, I have the constant mixture of excitement, pride and worry you always have for your children when guiding them through big decisions.

But one thing I wanted my son to have no choice in was smoking. For months now, Cancer Research UK has been campaigning in favour of the Tobacco and Vapes Bill, and I had been quietly optimistic that my son and his friends would be forever protected from a lifetime of addiction to tobacco. But last week, that all changed.

When the general election was called by the prime minister, hard-won progress on the bill was brought to a grinding halt. And now, as the bill slips through the cracks during wash-up, we are heading back to square one. The bill will have to be re-presented to the newly-elected parliament.

It’s not just my son who would have benefitted. Every single child in the UK under the age of 15 would have been covered by the legislation. Parents like me who have never smoked, and parents who smoke and have tried to quit multiple times (as so many have) could rest in the knowledge that if this bill passed, their children could be free of tobacco products, which will ultimately kill two thirds of users.

Smoking has killed an estimated nine million people since the 1960s in the UK and continues to be the biggest cause of cancer. Every day, 150 people in the UK are diagnosed with cancer as a result of smoking.

On top of this, the impact of tobacco on the economy and the NHS is shocking. Smoking is estimated by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) to cost society £49 billion annually for England. This dwarfs the £11 billion income from taxes on tobacco products.  And smoking-related illness fills 75,000 GP appointments in England each year. The fact that this bill hasn’t been prioritised is deeply disappointing.

Now we must look forward. As political parties regroup and launch their general election campaigns, this legislation must be top of the list and a priority in all manifestos: it isn’t and shouldn’t be a party political issue. At the first King’s Speech, whoever wins the election must re-introduce the bill, pass it swiftly through parliament, and implement it so that we can start to reap the benefits of a smokefree future.

I want my son to live in a world where cancers caused by smoking are a thing of the past. Our political leaders want the same for their children, too. I implore them to think not just about the next five years they might potentially spend in office, but to look beyond to the future. Failure to do so would be a betrayal of an entire generation.

 


 

Originally published by Politics.co.uk

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