North East politicians have had their say after a generational smoking ban bill was voted through at its second reading yesterday.

The government’s Tobacco and Vapes Bill made its way through by 383 votes to 67, with Labour heavily backing the legislation on Tuesday (April 16).

The bill was opposed by 59 Conservatives with more abstaining from the vote.

Middlesbrough and East Cleveland MP Simon Clarke, and Bishop Auckland MP Dehenna Davison were among those who opposed the legislation.

Mr Clarke said he believes banning smoking may lead to the creation of a “whole new black market.”

He said: “I believe in personal responsibility and freedom.

"Smoking is really bad for you. But it’s already illegal for children to smoke. And I believe grown adults should be trusted to make their own choices.

"If we ban smoking for the next generation, what is to stop us from banning alcohol? Red meat? Takeaways?

"I also fear the proposed law with its progressive introduction will create an enforcement nightmare, with shopkeepers having to assess whether someone is 18, 19, 48, or 49, for years to come. 

"We already struggle to enforce the war on drugs. The last thing we should do is create a whole new black market."

The bill seeks to raise the age of sale for all tobacco products by one year every year from 2027 onwards.

This would mean these products could not be legally sold to anyone who is aged 15 or younger this year.

Alex Cunningham, MP for Stockton North, said he was proud to help put through a “huge step” towards establishing the UK’s “first smokefree generation.”

He said: "I was very proud to vote for the Age of Sale Bill yesterday in the House of Commons. Smoking is a real scourge on our society with hundreds of thousands of people dying since the turn of the century to fund the big tobacco companies’ profits. 

“This legislation is a huge step in the right direction towards the UK’s first smoke-free generation, but more must be done.

“The Government need to ensure that local smoking cessation services are properly funded to support more people to kick the addiction and lead healthier lives. 

“Similarly, we need to ensure more action is taken on the epidemic of youth vaping. While I acknowledge the role that vaping can play as a quitting aid to adult smokers, far too many young people, who may never have smoked cigarettes, are picking up this dangerous addiction.

“We need stronger enforcement to stop the criminals selling vapes to children and risking the health of future generations." 

Raising the age of sale from 2027 will come into force if the legislation is passed as will new fixed penalty fines of £100 for anyone selling cigarettes or vapes to children.

Children or young people cannot be fined.

Peter Gibson, MP for Darlington, said: “Yesterday in the commons, I voted to allow the comprehensive legislation on smoking and vapes to pass to the next stage, where I anticipate it will be extensively amended.

“I have long campaigned in the scourge of disposable vapes, highly dangerous illegal vapes and the exploitation of children which we see in Darlington from the pop-up shops which are exploding over our town as has been covered by the Northern Echo.

“We need strong robust and effective legislation to rid our streets of this scum - that’s why I backed this bill.”

Meanwhile, Bishop Auckland MP Dehenna Davison said she is opposed to the bill as she believes a ban will encourage a black market.

She said she does not believe the legislation is "effective" or "practical," and added decisions like this should not be made on "good intentions and wishful thinking."

She said: "I am very supportive of smoking cessation initiatives, and ultimately would personally love to see cigarettes, and their harm, become obsolete.

"Where people want to buy cigs but can’t buy them legitimately, the black market becomes the next option. Poorer quality cigarettes bought illicitly are often far more harmful to health, so I fear a harmful unintended consequence.

"Increasing the age year on year will make retail incredibly difficult - imagine a young person in their first job in a supermarket having to decide whether to ID someone based on if they look over or under 63.

"I do believe the legislation comes from a place of good intentions and positive ambition to reduce the harms of smoking, but I cannot support it in its current form. I hope we can find a more practical solution."

Dr Ian Walker, executive director of policy at Cancer Research UK, said: “Yesterday’s vote is critical in bringing us one step closer towards the first ever smoke-free generation.

“By voting in favour of the age of sale legislation and helping position the UK as a world leader in tobacco control, MPs have listened to the demands of their constituents and placed themselves on the right side of history. 

“It’s essential that this Bill now moves swiftly through Parliament so that it can be implemented as soon as possible. Now is the time to take action, end cancers caused by smoking and save lives."

Fresh said 64,000 deaths in England and over 117,000 deaths in the North East have been caused by tobacco since the year 2000.

Ailsa Rutter, OBE director of Fresh and Balance, said: “Tobacco needs to be treated in this way because it is unique in how lethal it is. No other product than tobacco is guaranteed to kill early two of its lifelong customers.

“Tobacco addiction usually starts when people are children so it completely deprives people of any choice. Most smokers also regret ever starting and most try to stop many times. It is not a free choice when you are addicted.

“This is not about depriving adult smokers who don’t want to stop. It is about giving our next generation a life free of a cancer-causing addiction which costs tens of thousands of pounds over a lifetime.”

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Amanda Healy, Durham County Council’s Director of Public Health, said: “The response from local authorities, NHS trusts and many other organisations and individuals to create a smoke-free generation has been overwhelming. Smoking now costs our region £2.5bn a year – a cost not just felt by families but to our economy, local authority social care budgets and to the NHS.

“The North East has seen the biggest fall in smoking in England in the last two decades, but for generations saw the worst outcomes from diseases like lung cancer and COPD and the impact in our communities with people left disabled or dying too early from smoking.

“There are very few families who haven’t seen a loved one suffer because of smoking…that is why people don’t want that for their children or grandchildren.”