'Disgrace' and a 'joke' - Washington shoppers react to MPs backing for phased ban on buying cigarettes in the UK

There are concerns the new legislation will simply lead to a rise in the illegal sale of cigarettes to children and teenagers.
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Shoppers in Washington have given a mixed reaction to Parliament’s backing of new legislation which will effectively, in time, ban people from buying cigarettes in the UK with some smokers branding the decision a “disgrace” and an “infringement on their human rights”.

Shoppers in Washington have been reacting to MPs voting in favour of new legislation on smoking.Shoppers in Washington have been reacting to MPs voting in favour of new legislation on smoking.
Shoppers in Washington have been reacting to MPs voting in favour of new legislation on smoking.

Yesterday evening (March 16) MPs backed The Tobacco and Vapes Bill by 383 votes to 67.

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Whilst it still needs to be ratified by the House of Lords, when, as expected, it becomes law in the second half of this year (2024) it means anyone born after 2009 will be unable to buy cigarettes, even once over the current legal purchase age of 18.

The decision will ultimately see the phased introduction of a law which will prevent the purchase of cigarettes in the UK.

MPs have backed a bill to phase out the legal sale of cigarettes. Credit: Kim Mogg/GettyMPs have backed a bill to phase out the legal sale of cigarettes. Credit: Kim Mogg/Getty
MPs have backed a bill to phase out the legal sale of cigarettes. Credit: Kim Mogg/Getty

The decision drew derision from former prime ministers Boris Johnson, who described the bill as "absolutely nuts", and Liz Truss who labelled the legislation as “limiting people’s personal freedom”. It was sentiment shared by friends Brenda Scott and Lorraine Hudson who were shopping at the Galleries retail park. Brenda, 68, who has smoked since she was 12, said: “I think it’s disgusting and an absolute disgrace. I agree children should be discouraged from smoking but what happens when this age group are adults?

“It’s an infringement on their human rights and once they are an adult they should have the right to choose if they want to smoke.

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“It’s my choice if I want to smoke. I wouldn’t smoke indoors near people or next to children, but if I want to smoke outdoors then that is my right.”

Brenda Scott (left) and Lorraine Hudson.Brenda Scott (left) and Lorraine Hudson.
Brenda Scott (left) and Lorraine Hudson.

Lorraine, 63, who started smoking as a teenager, added: “I think it’s against your human right to have freedom of choice.

“I don’t smoke around children but once they are adults it is their right as to whether or not to choose to smoke.”

It’s a sentiment shared by Steven Lucas, 54, who started smoking at 18.

Steven Lucas.Steven Lucas.
Steven Lucas.
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Steven, who lives in Washington, said: “I think the decision is a joke. Smokers are always being singled out and picked on.

“I discourage my nephews from starting to smoke, but once you are an adult it should be your right to choose.”

Lily Davis, 69, said she has tried to give up but smokes out of both addiction and enjoyment.

Lily Davis.Lily Davis.
Lily Davis.

She said: “I started smoking at work when I was 18. A work mate kept pestering me to do it and in the end I started smoking.

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“If this legislation had been in place when I was a teenager then I may not have started.

“However, I don’t think the Government should be able to dictate to people how to live their life - it should be individual choice.”

Lily also feels the decision will push the sale of cigarettes underground.

She added: “I don’t think it will work as people will always find a way to get things. It will lead to the trade of more illegal cigarettes.”

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It’s a sentiment shared by Billie Bland who was a smoker but gave up the habit when she fell pregnant with her son.

Billie, 34, from Washington said: “I started smoking when I was 13 and back then they used to have fag houses where you could go to buy illegal cigarettes.

“People will simply smoke illegally and so you might as well give them the choice as to whether they want to do it.”

Partner Stephen Outhwaite, 34, said he could “see both sides of the argument”.

Stephen Outhwaite.Stephen Outhwaite.
Stephen Outhwaite.
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He added: “I’ve never smoked and I don’t really see the appeal but I do think this decision will remove people’s liberty and right to make their own decisions.

“However it’s obviously better for people’s health if you can prevent them from starting to smoke.”

Surprisingly a significant number of long-term smokers who spoke to the Echo supported the prospective new legislation.

Luke Cruikshanks.Luke Cruikshanks.
Luke Cruikshanks.

Luke Cruikshanks, 20, from Houghton-le-Spring, said: “I’ve smoked from 14. It’s a horrible habit, but I’m now addicted.

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“I think it’s a good idea if it discourages young people from starting to smoke.”

It was sentiment shared by Luke Clayton, 31, from Thorney Close, who said: “I started smoking at 14 and I now smoke because I’m addicted and as a stress release.

Luke Clayton.Luke Clayton.
Luke Clayton.

“But I know it’s a terrible habit. I think this is a good thing if it stops kids from starting to smoke in the first place.

“Smoking is also so expensive and so I’m looking to quit.”

The most recent figures from the NHS showed there are around 75,000 annual deaths from smoking with the habit costing the NHS and the UK’s economy around £17bn every year.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics showed 12.9% of people aged 18 years and over in the UK - or around 6.4 million people - smoked cigarettes in 2022.

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