Why Lib Dems should support measures to limit smoking this week

I am writing in both a personal and professional capacity urging you to support the Tobacco and Vapes Bill due for second reading tomorrow. 

As a Liberal Democrat Councillor in Hull, I am the Portfolio Holder for Adult Services and Public Health and have responsibility for reducing smoking in a part of the country with some of the highest rates, with 500 people every year dying from smoking related illness. The impact is profound in a low-income community like Hull, and the cost to our local economy is around £390 million a year. 

I am an ex-smoker. I worked as a nurse for over 40 years; most of it in critical care in the operating theatres. There I witnessed over time the devastating effects smoking had on people’s lives. Often when going off duty I would pass patients all lined up outside, still smoking. Seeing this happening I made several attempts to quit smoking myself, but it was not easy.  My husband, Mike, did not give up smoking but supported me in my attempt.

I did not manage to quit before smoking permanently damaged my health and I now have COPD, a condition common among those of us who smoked for many years.

It was not lung cancer or COPD which got my husband Mike but the silent killer, Cardiovascular Disease. In July 2022 he lost consciousness after going for a check-up and died in hospital seven days later. My partner of 50 years gone.

For the health of the residents I represent, for the health of my family and for the memory of my husband I ask you to back this Bill. As an ex-smoker I wish I had never started, and I know my husband did not want to pay the price of his life for the tobacco addiction he had. 

I am aware that colleagues are concerned that this is a question of limiting personal choice, but I can say firsthand that it is not. I became addicted to smoking as a teenager and it was hard to quit. Addiction, to me, is a removal of control over personal choice. I want the choice not to have COPD and to have my husband back, choices taken from me by smoking. 

I am a liberal, when we intervene in people’s lives, I believe it has to be a proportionate response to harm. No other consumer product kills like tobacco does. This is a unique measure for a unique product. Our voters understand this. The latest poll from ASH shows that 75% of people who voted for us in 2019 back this legislation and only 9% oppose.

There is a strong case for this legislation  as you can see from the Smokefree Action Coalition briefing to provide further background information ahead of tomorrow’s debate.


* Cllr Linda Chambers is Lib Dem portfolio holder for Health and Adult Services at Hull City Council

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  • Jenny Barnes 15th Apr '24 - 5:35pm

    ” A question of personal choice”
    I managed to give up after smoking 20 a day for many years when I realised that the tobacco companies thought they owned my lungs. I was determined that they would not.

  • My only concern with this policy is will it create a black market for cigarettes and help fuel organised crime as is the result of cannabis prohibition.

  • Martin Gray 15th Apr '24 - 7:31pm

    It will make proxy sales the norm . Increasing the age year on year is bizarre & unenforceable. Someone in thier 30s going to bargain booze armed with a passport to buy some fags. The police won’t be interested as they can’t enforce the age restriction now. Are we still saying we support the legalization of cannabis? And yet some bloke won’t be able spark a fag up on his sofa but can roll a spliff instead …!
    It smacks of we know what’s best for the working man & woman…Very Liberal.

  • Martin Gray 16th Apr '24 - 4:19am

    ‘Addiction is a form of enslavement’……So where do you stop with that argument…
    Alcohol, Gambling, eating burgers etc !
    Let’s all sit around a camp fire singing kum by ya and eating chick peas for supper.

  • Please not Martin Gray. Camp fires (already banned in many urban areas) release dangerous carcinogens. Other dangers lurk – sun-bathing leads to skin cancer and the consumption of doughnuts rots your teeth and leads to coronary failure. Betting impoverishes and social media can cause mental distress. Where will this end?

  • @Martin Gray: There is no easy answer to ‘where do you stop with that argument‘ because ultimately you have to take each case on its merits. Many things – including alcohol and gambling – are somewhat addictive. As liberals we believe in free choice as far as it is practicable, but in reality what we perceive to be free choice is often an illusion – probably more often than any of us would like to think. That leaves deep philosophical problems, but in practical terms, my own inclination with this sort of issue is to ask, do people suffer more harm and more unhappiness if you ban the activity (recognising that the perceived loss of freedom is itself a harm) or if you allow it. In the case of smoking, it’s very clear that allowing smoking causes far more harm to people than preventing it. Other things? – Well, those must be individual judgement calls, but it’s notable that we already restrict gambling and discourage alcohol through sales restrictions and taxes, and I imagine few UK liberals would disagree with those restrictions.

  • Surely not an open camp fire? How close would you be sitting?

  • Tristan Ward 16th Apr '24 - 9:11am

    Can’t agree that Lib Dems should support Sunack’s proposals.
    1. We look very silly also supporting the decriminalisation of cannabis etc

    Adults ultimately sshould hae. Frredom.

    Perfecty happy to keep the pressure on smoking by incrasing cost, public heath education etc.

  • Chris Lewcock 16th Apr '24 - 9:13am

    Does your Local Authority and local Police Force have the resources to police such a ban and/or what priority do you expect them to give it?

  • David Bertram 16th Apr '24 - 9:46am

    Measure is fundamentally illiberal, will foster a black market and achieves nothing significant that a rise in age of purchase to 21 wouldn’t. Making something illegal doesn’t eradicate it. 15% of young people smoke (illegal) cannabis.

    But don’t worry, OP; of course our Parliamentary sheep will vote for it because: they believe anything an NGO tells them; they have no critical faculties, and they are too frightened of the backlash inside and outside the Party if they didn’t.

    Remind anyone of another current hot topic?

  • Two weeks ago a good friend lost her younger brother, just short of 50 but a heroin addict (after various attempts to kick the habit).
    What’s this to do with the proposed smoking ban?
    At age 15, outside school, he was offered a spliff for free by a drug dealer. It was a deliberate ploy to get kids addicted to the stuff, full well knowing that at 15 the likelihood of going onto full addiction was much greater than at an older age. Thus by giving out spliffs the dealer was looking to grow his business.
    Mid teenage years are the worst of times to develop an addiction, thus I strongly agree with the proposed nicotine ban.

  • Nonconformistradical 16th Apr '24 - 10:10am

    There might be case for killing off tobacco smoking while taking a more relaxed approach to personal cannabis use on grounds of relative harm.

    My concerns are around enforcement

  • Graham Jeffs 16th Apr '24 - 10:52am

    If laws are not readily enforceable, they bring the status of those that are into disrepute – it’s contagion.

    I am very disappointed that the LDs are supporting this silly proposal.

  • @David Bertram…. Exactly David .
    It comes across as elitist & snobbish. The same attitude we’ve seen before as regards the EU referendum.
    The party is wallowing in metropolitan middle class campus politics . That’s what you get when you have university graduates going straight into politics.
    We’ll end up with some latter day Matthew Hopkins patrolling the high street looking someone under 30 smoking a fag ….!

  • The problem with cigarettes is that they don’t only harm smokers, but also those around them. Thus young children inhale smoke involuntarily when their parents smoke. If one could be sure that smoking was a wholly solo habit or one only indulged in groups of smokers and didn’t affect anyone else, then there might be a case against a ban.
    If smokers had to bear the costs of any NHS treatment and not the rest of us (smoking related illness is largely self inflicted), then we could argue about freedom to smoke.
    Mill’s ‘harm’ principle would suggest that a ban is in order. My only regret is that to limit it to those born after 2009 makes it more difficult to enforce.

  • Nonconformistradical 16th Apr '24 - 12:26pm

    “The problem with cigarettes is that they don’t only harm smokers, but also those around them.”
    Exactly. This is a key point.

  • Andrew Tampion 16th Apr '24 - 12:32pm

    “The sight of groups of smokers huddled together outside buildings in the cold and rain is clear evidence of the drug’s addictive properties. ”
    No Martin what that proves is that this is what happens when do-gooders ban something that they don’t approve of in the mistaken belief that it will benefit other people who happen to disagree with them.
    Further maybe some of the people outside building are not addicted but just happen to like smoking.
    I predict that this ban will be as successful as the 18th Amendment in the USA and have the same adverse consequences.
    But even if I’m wrong on this point it is an illiberal scheme that will encourage people who want to ban oyther things, for example alcohol to press for that.
    Finally if Reform UK come out against it they will pick up votes from all across the political spectrum

  • nigel hunter 16th Apr '24 - 1:04pm

    It is not just the smoker that is affected by smoking but those around them. A non smoker living with a smoker over years is affected by the 2nd hand smoke that leads to COPD. Nicotine affects more than the smoker. Heavy pointing out of what smoking can lead to both individual and social should be constantly pointed ,starting in schools. It is the responsibility of the individual that his/her actions do not harm others should be pointed out

  • Glenn Andrews 16th Apr '24 - 1:57pm

    Cannot support this – it is a simple basic principle that all adult citizens should be equal under the law. This should render this a non-starter whatever the motive.

  • I don’t get the criticism that the law won’t be enforceable. We already have an age limit for buying cigarettes. This legislation proposed to increase that age.

    You could argue that if a police officer saw a bunch of 12 year olds smoking they might confiscate the cigarettes, and that’s unlikely to happen to a future 25 year old. Nevertheless, the real enforcement of the current law comes via Trading Standards (at least around here) who do test purchases, and can and do take enforcement action against premises that persist in selling to under-age customers.

    I’m not sure about the black market angle. Do those who buy black market cigarettes now start with black market ones, or did they start with legal ones? Then once addicted tried to find a way to save money?

    I’d not favour criminalising the under-age user of cigarettes any more than I favour criminalising the user of currently illegal recreational drugs.

    Not everything that has addictive qualities is equally addictive, or equally harmful. Cigarettes are very addictive, very harmful, and most smokers, once addicted, don’t particularly enjoy it.

  • Chris Moore 16th Apr '24 - 3:44pm

    You also seem to have it in for the blessed chick pea: a staple of subcontinental and Iberian cookery.

    Flesh-coloured and dainty.

    I recommend you try a chana masala and you will never run down the chick pea again.

  • Jack Nicholls 16th Apr '24 - 4:05pm

    I’m disappointed – bordering on disgusted – by the tenor of some of the debate on this thread, especially given the deeply personal and emotive nature of the original post; I say that from a position of some scepticism about this bill, both philosophically and in terms of enforcement, but with total respect for the intentions of most of those who are supportive of it. To be a liberal of any flavour is to continuously debate and review the correct placement of the line between ‘freedom from’ and ‘freedom to’.

    It’s not everyone – plenty are comporting themselves with civility – but some people here and elsewhere are resorting to pretty cheap language, and the deliberate over-extension of the points made by those taking the opposite view. The liberal force in any democracy tends to be the party of ideas and of respectful, constructive discussion – I’d like to see us acting like it when we speak to each other.

  • Nigel Quinton 16th Apr '24 - 7:05pm

    This is a wrong headed response and totally ridiculous once the age limit reaches 20+. If there is to be a raising of the age when one can legally purchase a cigarette then it should be at 18 or 21.

    However I found myself agreeing with Daisy Cooper’s speech and position. It’s a small imperfect move in the right direction. The better response in my view as an ex spokes on public health is that more resources should be provided to quit smoking programmes and she was right to call out the government for defunding what have generally been very successful interventions.

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