The Conservative MP for Hemel Hempstead said his Party was committed to doing all it could to reduce smoking rates, but remained unconvinced at the evidence for the ban. “Labour even concedes the picture is ‘not definitive’,” he added. “I do believe a dispassionate analysis would recognise that there is not yet sufficient weight of evidence to endorse a ban on point of sale,” he wrote at www.conservativehome.blogs.com.
“Few other countries have a ban – and in the first Canadian province to do so, the percentage of smokers initially rose from 21% in 2002 to 24% in 2003. Bans in Iceland and Canada are now being cited as ‘coinciding’ with a fall in youth smoking, rather than affecting this. “I continue to advocate practical initiatives to reduce smoking. We have a responsible duty, though, not to let this come at the expense of legitimate small businesses when the efficacy of proposals is questionable.”
Penning suggested a “meaningful alternative” would be to tackle tobacco smuggling. “Government estimates of non-UK duty-paid cigarette consumption amount to lost tax revenue of up to £4.1bn, at a time we can ill afford it,” he said.