Sunak’s smoking ban proposal is ‘nuts’, says Johnson

Boris Johnson has attacked Rishi Sunak’s flagship smoking policy as “nuts” as he criticised the state of the Conservative Party at an event in Canada.

Speaking at a gathering of conservatives in Ottawa, the former UK prime minister suggested his party lacked the “dynamism” of its Canadian counterparts, who appear on course to win the next election.

It has been rumoured in Westminster that Mr Johnson could return to the campaign trail at the general election this year in an effort to revive the Conservatives’ polling numbers, particularly in the “Red Wall” in the North and Midlands.

But his comments to the Canada Strong and Free Networking Conference on Wednesday night appeared to make this prospect less likely as he criticised policies that were being carried out “in the name of conservatism”.

He said: “We are, on the whole, in favour of freedom and it is that single Anglo-Saxon idea of freedom that I think unites conservatives, or should unite conservatives.

“And when I look at some of the things that we are doing now, or that are being done in the name of conservatism, I think they are absolutely nuts.”

Mr Johnson singled out his successor-but-one’s policy of increasing the minimum age for buying tobacco every year in an effort to phase out smoking, which formed a major part of Mr Sunak’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference last year.

He said: “When the party of Winston Churchill wants to ban cigars, donnez-moi un break as they say in Quebec, it’s just mad.”

Mr Sunak’s flagship policy has faced criticism from the more libertarian wing of his party, and is expected to be the subject of a free vote when MPs debate the legislation for the first time on April 16th.

But with backing from the Labour Party, internal opposition from Conservatives is unlikely to derail the plans.

Speaking ahead of the introduction of the Bill last month, Mr Sunak said: “If we want to build a better future for our children we need to tackle the single biggest entirely preventable cause of ill-health, disability and death: smoking.”

The law proposed by the UK prime minister would prevent anyone who is turning 15 this year, or younger, from ever being able to legally buy tobacco products.

A similar law had been due to come into effect in New Zealand in July, but was repealed by the country’s new coalition government in February.


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