Conservative MPs from Buckinghamshire have criticised the Prime Minister’s plans to introduce a phased ban on smoking as ‘the heavy hand of the nanny state’.

Steve Baker, MP for High Wycombe, and Greg Smith, MP for Buckingham, were among 57 Conservative MPs to vote against giving the Tobacco and Vapes Bill a second reading in Parliament yesterday (April 16).

178 Conservative MPs voted to support the bill, with other Buckinghamshire Members of Parliament choosing to abstain from the vote.

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, to create a “smoke-free” generation.

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

Mr Baker said his decision had been based on “respect for the dignity of adults to exercise their own free will and take responsibility for their health”.

He added: “Anyone who can read knows that smoking kills. And I know because it killed my stepfather and an uncle.

“Why anyone does it despite the clear warnings and often lurid images on the packets is a mystery to me that is not explained by appeal to the addictive qualities of nicotine.

“However, people in a free society should be able to make bad choices and choices that some may disagree with. We do not restrict the ability of adults to drink despite the overwhelming evidence that it is bad for their health.”

Meanwhile, Mr Smith expressed concern that passing the bill would set a precedent for the prohibition of other potentially dangerous products.

He said: “The Tobacco and Vapes Bill is extremely wide-reaching. There are parts of it that are absolutely right, not least on preventing children from starting vaping through ending child-focused flavours marketed next to sweets in shops.

“However, whilst personally I have never smoked and I don’t encourage anyone to smoke, I have considerable concerns that this Bill just won’t work, is illiberal and takes away adults’ freedom to choose.

“I did not get into politics to ban things, and we know from history prohibition doesn’t work and just drives an underground market of unregulated and even more dangerous products, untaxed.  Furthermore, it is on my mind what comes next.

“First, they came for the smokers, will drinkers be next, red meat eaters or chocoholics? Where does this end? I believe individuals must make choices for themselves, not the heavy hand of the nanny state.

“So, I voted against second reading and want to see more targeted individual measures brought forward to tackle the real problem of children being encouraged to start vaping.”

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