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Critics slam proposals to raise legal age for buying cigarettes

06 December 2005

A proposal to increase the legal age for buying cigarettes in England has been slammed by critics as an attempt to deflect attacks from the controversial Health Bill.

Labour MP Jeff Ennis has raised a motion at Parliament to increase the legal age to buy tobacco from 16 to 18.

Supporters of the proposal argue that it would help to reduce the number of teenage smokers in the country and the take-up rate amongst young people.

However, Ian Wilmore from Action on Smoking and Health, which would normally be expected to support such a measure unreservedly, said: "It is a pretty transparent attempt to get away from the embarrassing mess of the Health Bill."

Martin Couchman, deputy chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, said that if the proposal was a division tactic, "It won't work, because people who want a total ban will not be appeased by this".

Pro-ban supporters have also questioned the timing of the motion's reappearance describing it as convenient, as it was originally laid in June and attracted little interest then.

The Government is coming under increasing pressure from backbench MPs who are unhappy that England is set to have only a partial ban on smoking in the workplace.

So far 87 MPs have signed an early day motion calling on the Government to go for a complete ban instead, fully protecting the health of all workers.

A Department of Health spokeswoman denied the proposal was a "quick win" to appease those unhappy with the Health Bill, which will have its third reading in the New Year.

By Amanda Smith

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