Minister who reveals she started smoking at 12 says she's not interested in freedom argument against ban

16 April 2024, 10:57

'I'm ashamed to say Nick, I started smoking when I was 12' Tory MP reveals

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Home Office minister Laura Farris, who took up smoking at 12, said she would back the plan to ban youngsters from ever legally being able to buy cigarettes.

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Ms Farris rejected the criticism of the plan from some senior Tories including former prime ministers Liz Truss and Boris Johnson, telling LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast she would be voting for the ban with "great enthusiasm."

The conversation comes ahead free vote on the issue later, with several Tories expected to reject the plan - although with Labour supporting it, the measure is likely to comfortably clear its first Commons hurdle.

The plan, which would make it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born after January 1 2009, was announced by the Prime Minister in his speech at the Conservative Party conference last year.

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"I think this is a very, very sensible policy and I'm not particularly interested in arguments about freedom on this one," Ms Farris told LBC.

The minister said: "It took me years and years and years to quit. It's one of my biggest regrets, actually.

"I've got two young kids now and the fact that they will never be able to walk into a shop and buy a packet of cigarettes is something I welcome.

"I have never met a single smoker who's glad they did it, wishes that their children do it, can identify a single health benefit or any other life benefit.

"It gets you hooked. It's a horrible habit. And even when you're doing it, you know that you're causing yourself irreparable harm. And it's incredibly difficult to get off."

The minister went on to reveal even her children did not know she used to smoke when questioned by Nick.

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As well as raising the smoking age every year, the legislation includes provisions that will regulate the display, contents, flavours and packaging of vapes and nicotine products.

Smoking kills about 80,000 people a year and costs the NHS and the economy an estimated £17 billion annually.

According to the Government, creating a "smokefree generation" could prevent more than 470,000 cases of heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and other diseases by the end of the century.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said: "Rishi Sunak is too weak to stand up to the Liz Truss wing of his party, so has given his MPs a free vote.

"Though Tory MPs may oppose this measure, Labour will not play politics with public health. Labour will vote through this Bill, so that young people today are even less likely to smoke than they are to vote Tory."