The decline in healthy life expectancy marks a grim milestone in British history. It will therefore come as no surprise that the Tories have squandered every opportunity over the last 14 years to protect public health. Their failure has left taxpayers picking up the bill.

Smoking is now responsible for more than 80,000 deaths each year in the UK and is responsible for over 70% of lung cancer cases. While vaping is a less harmful alternative, it is not risk free, especially with a concerningly high number of illicit products, exposing children to harmful substances.

The last Labour Government’s landmark smoking ban in 2006 has become a defining public health achievement. Its immediate benefits were clear, with reduced respiratory illnesses among pub workers and fewer hospital admissions for heart attacks.

While the introduction of the Tobacco and Vapes Bill is a step forward, it’s regrettable that decisive action wasn’t taken sooner to combat respiratory diseases and save lives. Rishi Sunak’s decision to allow a free vote for his MPs reflects a lack of leadership and is indicative of a party adrift.

Labour stands ready to support the bill which brings forward measures to prohibit cigarette sales and curb the marketing of vapes to appeal to children.

These measures will hopefully ensure that our children and young people are less likely to smoke than they are to vote Tory.

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