ST HELENS South and Whiston's Marie Rimmer was among the Labour MPs who backed the government's bid to illegalise the sale of tobacco to anyone born from 2009.

Rishi Sunak’s proposal to ban young people from ever being able to legally smoke tobacco cleared its first House of Commons hurdle on Tuesday evening.

MPs voted 383 to 67, a majority 316, to give the Tobacco and Vapes Bill a second reading.

How did St Helens' MPs vote?

St Helens South and Whiston MP Marie Rimmer voted in favour of the proposal.

A vote was not recorded for St Helens North MP Conor McGinn. However, Mr McGinn's office contacted the Star to say he did vote for the smoking ban, though this has not yet been recorded due to an issue with his tap-in card.

What is the smoking situation in St Helens?

Figures from the Office for National Statistics reported on last September show 11.9 per cent of adults in St Helens smoked in 2022. This was up from the 10.6 per cent recorded the year before.

The rise contrasted with trends across England, where the national rate of smokers reached 12.7 per cent, the lowest level on record.

READ > Which elections are taking place in St Helens in May? - Everything you need to know

Proposal aims to create 'smoke-free generation'

The legislation, seen by the Prime Minister as a key part of his long-term legacy, would make it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born after January 1 2009, with the aim of creating a “smoke-free” generation.

It does not criminalise current smokers, but is aimed at preventing the harms caused by smoking, the leading causes of preventable illness and death in the UK.

Conservative MPs were given a free vote on the Bill, meaning those who voted against the Government’s position will not face punishment.

This allowed serving ministers, including Business Secretary and future Tory leadership hopeful Kemi Badenoch, to publicly reveal they would vote to reject the Bill.

“The principle of equality under the law is a fundamental one. It underpins many of my personal beliefs,” Ms Badenoch wrote on X, formerly Twitter, ahead of the vote.

She added: “We should not treat legally competent adults differently in this way, where people born a day apart will have permanently different rights.”

St Helens Star: The vote took place in Westminster last nightThe vote took place in Westminster last night (Image: Pixabay)

Another potential contender to run for the Tory leadership, former immigration minister Robert Jenrick, also came out against the policy.

Several senior Tories, including former prime minister Liz Truss, said they would not back the Bill due to concerns about freedom of personal choice.

In the Commons, Ms Truss claimed the ban is the result of a “technocratic establishment” aiming to “limit people’s freedom”, and described the Bill as a “virtue-signalling piece of legislation”.

She claimed there were enough “finger-wagging, nannying control freaks” on the opposition benches willing to support the proposals, urging Conservatives to “stand by our principles and our ideals”.

Former Conservative Party chairman Brendan Clarke-Smith suggested the proposal could lead to further health-related bans.

He said: “What next? A ban on alcohol? A ban on takeaways? I would declare an interest in both of those. Both of these are bad for us when they are not done responsibly. But we are adults, these are our choices, these are not the state’s choice.”

The division list showed 57 Conservative MPs voted against giving the Tobacco and Vapes Bill a second reading, while 178 voted to support it. 

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting confirmed Labour’s “wholehearted” support to the Bill, and added his party is “only too happy to defend the Health Secretary against the siren voices of big tobacco” gathered on the Tory benches.