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By Frank McKenna

By Frank McKenna

Up in Smoke

Non-smoker Frank McKenna tells us why he is opposed to the government’s plan to ban smoking.

I have never smoked. I’ve never as much had a drag on a cigarette. This, despite the fact that many of my peers did, and both of my parents were heavy smokers until they reached their mid-forties.

My Dad, in particular, taught me the health dangers of tobacco from an early age. As I, like most young lads in Skem, wanted to be a footballer when I grew up, he also told me that the damage smoke did to your lungs would mean the slim chance of me ever playing for Everton would be even further diminished.

As I got older, I became aware of the very real health risks of smoking – not least cancer. I didn’t find the smell of smoke on some of my girlfriend’s breath, or on their clothes, in anyway attractive. And those adults I knew who had become nicotine addicts all seemed to me to have aesthetically challenged teeth.

For these reasons – not to mention the huge expense of a smoking habit – I have found it easy to resist the temptation to-as Bill Clinton might say – inhale.

So, it may surprise you that I find the prime ministers’ legislation to ban this abhorrent habit in its entirety, wrongheaded.

The idea to ‘phase out’ smoking passed its first reading in the Commons this week. Although north of 50 Tory MPs voted against the legislation, with others abstaining – the plans survived because of the support from Labour and other opposition MPs.

In simple terms, once this legislation is made law, it will be illegal for anyone born in 2009 or later to buy tobacco products in the UK.

Think about that. So, my daughter of sixteen will be able to legally smoke. Her younger sister, now ten, will not. On a practical level, how will the state police and stop elder daughter not purchasing cigs for younger daughter if they so wish?

And, given the huge struggles supermarkets and other retail outlets currently have in terms of monitoring their customers ages when purchasing a range of products from alcohol to medication – how on earth are they supposed to enforce this new law?

Finally, as we have for decades had laws in place that make the smoking of other substances illegal – not to mention a vast range of other narcotics – with kids somehow still get their hands on them – where is the evidence that this new, well-meaning, plan, will not simply offer a further boost to the scum who operate in the drugs black market?

From a political perspective, this move makes even less sense for the PM. Many of his colleagues, and the wider Tory membership, signalled their opposition to the move when he announced his intention to do this at the Conservative conference in Manchester last year.

Although it is true that MPs were not whipped and were given a ‘free vote’ on his plans, it is not a good look for an already damaged leader to see one of his cabinet members (Kemi Badenoch), along with 56 other Tories oppose those plans.

As Sunak grapples with another dilemma of his own making, I’m off for a lie down to recover from the scary recognition that – on this particular issue – I agree with Liz Truss rather than Wes Streeting. Politics – it’s a funny old game!

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