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    Sunak’s ‘crazy scheme’ will distract police from serious crimes, says former PM

    (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

    Former prime minister Boris Johnson has called Rishi Sunak’s smoking ban “barmy”, warning that prohibiting the sale of cigarettes could open up new calls to outlaw other unhealthy products, such as sugary treats and alcohol.

    Writing for the Daily Mail, Mr Johnson said the ban was a “crazy scheme” that would distract the police from serious crimes, adding that that the government should “stop telling people what to do”.

    He warned that it would risk “glamourising” smoking while providing criminal gangs with “a new opportunity to make money” out of young people.

    “We seem to be about to embark on a new era of prohibition, of contraband tobacco and illegal smoking parlours and speakeasies,” he wrote.

    “If the argument is that we must ban smoking for public health reasons, then what about obesity, now an even bigger killer? Are we going to ban sugar? Where does it end? What about booze?”

    The former prime minister said the plan would “criminalise yet another variety of ordinary behaviour, with no thought to the consequences for those who have to make it work”.

    He added that it would impact those “desperate for justice from the courts”, such as rape victims, who would see that “the criminal justice system was being clogged with such ludicrous trivia”.

    “Not just people who refuse to pay their TV licence, but people who simply refuse to obey the Government and continue, whatever their date of birth, to smoke cigarettes,” he wrote. “How would you feel? Fit to be tied, I expect. The whole thing strikes me as barmy.”

    The former prime minister said it was time to roll back the “endless inflation in the size and role of the state” and asked: “Where does it end?”

    His remarks came after Sunak defended the ban, which he acknowledged had not been universally popular with the public or his own party.

    On being asked what he thought of criticism that restricting people’s personal choices in such a way went against “Thatcherite principles”, Sunka told LBC radio, “I’ve thought very hard about this. There will be people who have disagreeing views on this, and I respect that.”

    Sunak also insisted there was no prospect of the policy leading to bans on other products such as alcohol or unhealthy foods.

    He said smoking led to one hospital admission every minute, adding, “It comes down to this. There’s no safe level of smoking, it’s just different to everything else.

    “I had a chance as Prime Minister to do something about that so, even if it’s difficult, even if people are not all going to agree, I thought it was the right thing to do.”

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