BRITAIN: Country begins to eliminate smoking

It’s not just a United States thing; there are smokers around the world who wish they never had taken “that first puff” of a cigarette — for health or other reasons, including the cost of continuing what many call a habit.

Regardless, smokers throughout this planet who have access to world news — and who pay attention to what is going on — are likely to be interested in following a story emanating from the halls of British government about an attempt to eventually ban smoking.

However, three important questions hang over the U.K. effort to create what already is being dubbed as modern Britain’s “first smoke-free generation.”

Those questions are:

— Is the U.K. effort a prime example of government over-reach, since tobacco use is not considered a criminal offense in nations that consider themselves enlightened societies?

— Will U.K. residents — smokers, even non-smokers — rebel in whatever way against too much perceived intrusion into their private lives?

— Will this effort in the U.K. trigger other countries — or, in the United States, individual states — to try to imitate what Britain is doing — in the way Britain is doing it? In the United States, of course, similar-type scenarios are in play in some states regarding such issues as abortion and which books schoolchildren should be allowed to read.

People start paying attention when they perceive that their individual rights are being trampled upon.

The landmark British proposal, which cleared its first hurdle in Parliament on Tuesday, would make it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born after Jan. 1, 2009. According to an Associated Press article, “under the (British) Tobacco and Vapes Bill, children turning 15 this year or younger will never be legally sold tobacco.

Once implemented — officials are aiming for 2027 — the legal age of sale that people in England can buy cigarettes will be raised by one year, every year until it is eventually illegal for the whole population.

Throughout the U.K., it currently is illegal for anyone to sell cigarettes or tobacco products and vapes to people under 18 years old. Yet, like in the United States and other countries, Britain’s pre-18-year-olds are finding ways to obtain tobacco products even though it is illegal for them to do so.

Opponents in Britain say the planned phase-out risks creating a black market and treating future generations of adults like children. Conservative voices in Britain say the plan goes against conservative values by limiting people’s personal freedoms.

Those opinions are valid although worthy of continuing debate. But should government’s goal really be to expend considerable amounts of time — and, thus, money — on questionable initiatives geared predominately toward protecting adults from themselves? In the days ahead, Britain’s citizenry must decide the answer to that important question.

It is reasonable to believe that most smokers, at least, will not be consulting with their doctors or other health experts before voicing their opinions.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today