How our Lib Dem MPs voted on the Tobacco and Vapes Bill (2nd reading)

After a long and thorough debate, the Second Reading of the Tobacco and Vapes Bill has just been overwhelmingly passed by the House of Commons – the voting was 383 for and 67 against.

This is the Bill that will make it illegal for people born in or after 2009 to buy tobacco products in the UK.

Five Liberal Democrat MPs voted in favour of the bill – none voted against.

The five Lib Dems are in the graphic above from the Parliamentary website.

You can find the full list of MPs voting in tonight’s bill division here.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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40 Comments

  • “I am a Liberal, and I don’t believe in this sort of thing”.

  • Well done those five. The freedom to be addicted is no freedom.

  • Paul Barker 16th Apr '24 - 8:50pm

    I disagree with the 5 but I can see where they are coming from. What was the argument for abstention ?

  • Lloyd Harris 16th Apr '24 - 9:05pm

    If we as a party believe prohibition isn’t working for recreational drugs , then why seek to increase the prohibition to more things and fuel the black market and organised crime groups with more things they can do?
    So if I was an MP I would either vote against this bill or abstain and seek to amend the bill later so any adult over 21 would be able to choose what they did with their own lungs.

    BTW I am no fan of tobacco and the current policy is succeeding in driving down the number of people smoking and support stronger enforcement to stop vapes being targeted at teenagers.

  • Absolutely shameful. Not a single Liberal Democrat voted against prohibition. The law isn’t even workable – ‘evidence based policy’ really is nothing more than a slogan for our party now.

  • So not a single one of our MPs could find it within themselves to back the most basic tenet of liberalism (allowing people to do what they like to themselves, so long as it doesn’t harm others). Rarely have I found being a member of this party so dispiriting.

    How about banning alcohol, unprotected sex or driving? All these could harm not only yourself, but others (if we are to take the argument of 2nd hand smoke outdoors seriously). I struggle to see how anyone calling themselves a liberal could argue for an outright ban on cigarettes.

    And that is before we even get to the practical argument that in 40 years a 54 year old will have to ask their 56 year old friend to buy them cigarettes. Bonkers doesn’t even begin to cover it.

  • Tristan Ward 16th Apr '24 - 10:00pm

    The argument against this foolish authoritarian legislation is:

    It probably won’t work. Use of cannabis has been illegal for decades, yet thousands of people use it. That diminishes respect foe the law when people see observing g it as optional.

    Criminalising smoking moves control of tobacco to organised crime. As wa the case with prohibition in the US.

    It is a restriction on personal freedom. No one can legitimately say they o not know that smoking g is harmful to self or others.

    Smokers pay the cost of the diseases they inflict on themselves and others.

    Happily tobacco use is declining and continuing to decline (though i ept rhere will ne an irreducable base line use.) Current policies are working. Since they are further restrictions on personal freedom. Are not justified.

    Lots of people actually like smoking and ar happy in their addition, despite the know monetary and other costs. Who are we to interfere with their private lives?

    And all of that ignorance the political embarrassment of our party being seen to support the Conservatives and contradict ourselves on decriminalisation of cannabis. How do these two ideas reconcile themselves?

  • I’m sure they’ll all be feeling good about themselves tonight . We know best you plebs ….

  • Seems very undemocratic this. There hasn’t been a vote on this policy at conference yet our MPs behaviour prevents us from being able to maintain our policy on legalising cannabis which was voted on at conference.
    John Stuart Mill must be spinning in his grave!

  • Mary Fulton 17th Apr '24 - 7:56am

    So is party policy now that we wish smoking tobacco criminalised but smoking cannabis legalised?

  • Nonconformistradical 17th Apr '24 - 8:12am

    @John Grout
    “Seems very undemocratic this. There hasn’t been a vote on this policy at conference yet”
    They had a free vote on it. MPs are representatives, not delegates.

    If you are suggesting our MPs should not vote on anything unless the party has adopted a policy at conference, what would you suggest they do in some dire emergency – another pandemic, conflict directly affecting our country etc?

    “John Stuart Mill must be spinning in his grave!”
    I don’t think so. JS Mill’s harm principle is the best reason for supporting moves towards stopping more people getting hooked on smoking (anything, not just tobacco).

  • On balance I was against this Bill, but I can’t get too worked up about it as I think it is virtually unenforceable and will likely be safely ignored by anyone determined to smoke “underage”.

    I do think it makes our policy of legalising cannabis untenable though, inviting the obvious response of “how can you be in favour of cannabis but against tobacco?”.

    But now the precedent is set, will it be proposed to tackle other harmful and addictive behaviours like gambling and drinking?

  • Chris Lewcock 17th Apr '24 - 9:29am

    “The freedom to be addicted is no freedom.” Hmm. Could be re-formulated to cover any number of current bogeymen? The freedom to be addicted [to driving a car, browsing the internet, eating too many cakes?] is no freedom. Shades of Orwellian doublespeak there? Ready to be wielded by any aspiring populist?

  • @Nonconformistradical
    Pardon? I think you mean David LG!

  • @Chris Lewcock and anyone arguing this law is bad because – what will we ban next!?! – That’s the slippery slope fallacy. https://www.grammarly.com/blog/slippery-slope-fallacy/. I could equally well say to those oppose the legislation: “If you allow people to buy cigarettes, what next? Would you let people buy guns because it should be their choice if they want to shoot themselves?” But that would likewise be wrong because it’s also using the slippery slope fallacy.

    Reality: Banning selling cigarettes (or anything else) is a judgement call in which you’re weighing the harm that is done by allowing the harmful/addictive activity vs. the loss of freedom from banning it. Just because the judgement goes one way for cigarettes doesn’t mean that judgement will go the same way for other things.

  • Chris Lewcock 17th Apr '24 - 10:58am

    Simon R. Not sure I was arguing that there is a slippery slope. More concerned about the superficial and essentially meaningless nature of the particular slogan which could be applied to anything you (happen to not) like.

  • Nonconformistradical 17th Apr '24 - 11:16am

    @John Grout
    Whoops! Sorry! I did mean David LG

    Must be old age & decrepitude catching up with me.

  • I have often felt that very few Liberal Democrats are actually Liberals in any meaningful sense. For many of our MPs there seems to be no problem that can’t be fixed with more laws, more regulation and more taxation. The Lib Dems apparently want to decriminalise soft drugs but ban tobacco. The intellectual incoherence of the party has never been so obvious.

    For centuries the Liberal mantra was “there is no man alive who is sufficiently good to rule the life of the man next door to him.” Now Lib Dems apparently think he should not be allowed to smoke in his own home.

    This is not an abstract problem of political philosophy – it goes to the heart of why the modern Liberal Democrats have no clear political identity of their own.

  • Paul Barker 17th Apr '24 - 1:32pm

    Thinking more about this, clearly our MPs were split on this but we didn’t want to look divided in the run-up to The General Election.
    The obvious solution was for the whole Group to abstain but what seems to me to have happened is that The Leadership Voted the way they wanted to vote while everyone else was told to abstain – my interpretation of course. I simply don’t believe that none of our MPs wanted to vote against.

  • I wouldn’t want my MP to abstain. Got a vote? Use it.

  • James Moore 17th Apr ’24 – 12:34pm:
    I have often felt that very few Liberal Democrats are actually Liberals in any meaningful sense.

    Or given the behaviour of the party after the EU Referendum, Democratic. One might also have thought that Lib Dems would be opposed to discrimination. It’s notable that the first country to propose a GEG smoking ban was Malaysia – a country rated by Freedom House as “Partly Free” with a score of only 31/60 for Civil Liberties. Their proposed law was dropped after being ruled unconstitutional due to age discrimination…

    ‘Health minister says smoking GEG dropped as it was unconstitutional, not because of lobbying’ [March 2024]:
    https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2024/03/20/health-minister-says-smoking-geg-dropped-as-it-was-unconstitutional-not-because-of-lobbying/124519

    Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad today said the government discontinued a proposed law for a ‘generational endgame’ to smoking because its discrimination would have been unconstitutional.

  • James Moore 17th Apr '24 - 3:22pm

    On the addiction issue: thousands of people every year freely take up smoking in the full knowledge it can be addictive. Thousands also freely choose to give it up. That suggests it is not all that difficult. So why does the law need to get involved?

    Lots of activities have “addictive” qualities: smoking, drinking, gambling, chocolate, sex. Just because some people find it more difficult to find the will power to control and suppress their appetites doesn’t mean everyone else should be denied the right to make free and informed choices about their own lifestyles.

  • “Nicotine is one of the most powerfully addictive known substances. The neurophysiology is well understood. The addiction is a form of enslavement, a denial of liberty.”

    According to David Nutt’s paper “Development of a rational scale to assess the harm of drugs of potential misuse” (https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(07)60464-4), the rating of tobacco for “physical dependence” is 1.8 on a scale going up to 3 (for heroin). For comparison, his corresponding rating for alcohol is 1.6.

    The claim that nicotine is uniquely addictive – or at least much more addictive than another widely used drug that no one would dream of banning – is not supported by the evidence.

  • @ James Moore states, “I have often felt that very few Liberal Democrats are actually Liberals in any meaningful sense. For many of our MPs there seems to be no problem that can’t be fixed with more laws, more regulation and more taxation”.

    Of course Mr Moore is entitled to an opinion, but his view of the history of the Liberal Party, its philosophy and historical stances and beliefs is well wide of the mark. There is a wide range of historical literature available on the web on this issue. He could try Harrison, Drink and the Victorians, The Temperance Question in England, 1815-1872, Keele Univ. Press, 1994 for starters.

    On an anecdotal note, I still remember my Gt Uncle George – a stalwart Methodist, Temperance Campaigner and Liberal in West Yorkshire – enrolling me as a ‘Little Blue Ribboner’ in the local Band of Hope, aged five. I’ve still got the ribbon and badge.
    Libertarian does not mean Liberal.

  • David Allen 17th Apr '24 - 5:09pm

    The mixture of “principled” and “practical” arguments put forward by opponents of this Bill looks awkward. Very often, when someone argues that a policy can’t be made to work, what they really mean is that they don’t want it to work.

    Thus, one can easily poke fun at the idea of letting a 55-year-old but not a 54-year-old smoke. However, there are simple solutions. For example, Government could allow anyone born before 2009 to buy a smoking licence, confiscatable should its holder buy cigarettes for resale. This isn’t in the Bill because we don’t yet know whether a consensus will eventually emerge that the law should be tightened in this way. But one way or the other, the law can readily be updated to get rid of such anomalies.

    The cannabis versus nicotine anomaly can equally be resolved. The overriding need now is to make easy access to nicotine unlawful, bringing it more into line with cannabis. Once that has been done, we can argue the case for limited decriminalisation without corner-shop access, for cannabis and (if we really think fit) equally for nicotine too. Mary Fulton, above, implies that it would be crazy to make access to cannabis easier than access to smoked nicotine. I can’t see why.

    Fundamentalist Liberalism isn’t as terrible as fundamentalist Marxism or Islamism. However, when any sincerely held belief system turns rigid, and comes into conflict with common sense and humanity, it’s wiser to temper those beliefs.

  • Colin Paine 17th Apr '24 - 5:14pm

    Amazing that none of our MPs opposed this. I fully supported the ban on smoking in pubs due to the impacts on others, but what people do in their own homes or on a mountaintop is up to them. Just because right wing Tories and George Galloway are against something doesn’t always make it right!

  • Protecting people from themselves is not necessarily illiberal. This is why wearing a seatbelt is compulsory and selling Heroin is illegal. In this regard Mill’s harm principle is arguably more libertarian than liberal. The issue is always one of proportionality and workability and that is the problem with this smoking ban.

  • @Martin Bennett @David Allen – this Bill gradually bans tobacco, but it doesn’t ban nicotine. Vapes containing nicotine, presumably along with gum and patches, will still be available.

    So access to nicotine will continue to be relatively easy for all ages over 18, and legal as well as illegal profits will continue to be made from addiction.

  • @David Raw

    Temperance was about individuals voluntarily agreeing to give up alcohol, not the central state banning people from drinking it.

    At the end of the century a small number of Liberals believed that local authorities should be given the right to ban the sale of alcohol in their local areas (local option). However these campaigners were dismissed as “faddists” by most mainstream MPs and were often blamed for contributing to the party’s heavy defeats in the general elections of 1895 and 1900.

  • @Martin Bennett…
    Adults are aware of the addictive nature of nicotine & are quite capable of managing their own risks in a free liberal society. What we don’t need is a nonsensical law that will be difficult to enforce the longer that ban is in place . What someone does in the privacy of their own home with a product that’s been around 400 years is an entirely matter for them – not the state.
    It comes across as elitist & illiberal.
    Some of our MPs seem to be devoid of independent thought & are just following on trend campus politics.
    Maybe they should watch an episode of Benidorm to see how working class folk smoke, drink, and enjoy themselves…

  • Peter Martin 18th Apr '24 - 2:28pm

    It’s interesting to see that the recent anti-smoking bill causes such angst in a centrist party like the Lib Dems.

    We on the left don’t have the same problem. Those who want us to smoke are the capitalist owners of the tobacco companies. Their only interest is in maintaining their profit levels. They don’t care about our health. They pretend to care about our ‘freedom of choice’ but only to support the status quo and their profitability.

    Its a no-brainer for us!

  • Peter Martin 18th Apr '24 - 3:11pm

    I’m just wondering if this proposed law would have been legal under EU law or would it be deemed as an infringement to free trade? It’s a genuine question BTW.

    I asked a related question when the subject of minimum pricing arose a few years ago on the sale of high alcohol cider. The obvious solution would have been simply to impose a higher tax on it. However this wasn’t allowed under EU law was the answer I received. Was this correct?

  • Martin Bennett wrote:
    “Sceptic:
    You have picked out data that appears to minimise tobacco dependence.”

    I was responding to your claim about “neurophysiology”. That is not psychology, is it?

  • Nonconformistradical 18th Apr '24 - 5:19pm

    @Peter Martin
    “Its a no-brainer for us!”
    I share your views about capitalist tobacco complanies but we LibDems are accustomed to debating policy.

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