Smoking, both in take up, and the public perceptions of it, has changed immeasurably, for the better, over the course of the last few decades.

Long gone are the days of smoke-filled pubs and clubs, and cigarette advertising all over our television screens.

There is now wide public consensus on the clear and present dangers of smoking to both smokers themselves, and those around them.

Yet, smoking is the single biggest entirely preventable cause of ill-health, disability, and death, leading to 80,000 deaths a year in the UK.

It is responsible for 1 in 4 cancer deaths, and over 70% of lung cancer cases, with smokers losing an average of ten years of life expectancy.

As of 2022, smoking rates in Tameside (20.2%) were far ahead of the rest of England (12.7%), putting long term public health outcomes at serious risk.

Smoking is estimated to cost the economy and wider society £17 billion a year – this is equivalent to 6.9p in every £1 of income tax received, and equivalent to the annual salaries of over half a million nurses.

Being a smoker is not a free choice – it is an addiction.

Most smokers know the risks of smoking, want to quit but are unable to due to the addictive nature of tobacco.

4 in 5 smokers start before the age of 20 and are then addicted for life.

This clear and present evidence base is why I, and the Labour Party, welcome the bill being brought forward by the Government this week to implement a progressive ban on cigarettes, meaning anyone aged 15 or younger now will never legally able to buy them.

This is something I was proud to lead Labour’s support for when I was the Shadow Minister for Public Health, and Labour remains committed to protecting the health of our next generation.

Coupled with far greater regulation on vaping, stopping children being drawn into nicotine addiction by branding and advertising, it is vital we act now to ensure Smokefree is no longer an ambition, but a reality.

The last Labour government led the way with the Smoking Ban in 2006, which made a real difference to public health outcomes, particularly in the poorest areas.

We need a government now that will have the same level of ambition, something Labour is ready to deliver again.

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