Government announces more anti-smoking plans

While many British smokers are still reeling from the public place ban, the Government has unveiled further plans to curb the nation's habit. As part of the "tobacco control strategy", the Government proposes that smoking should be banned at the entrances to buildings and cigarettes could be sold in plain grey packets.

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Sales of tobacco from vending machines could also be banned if the proposed policies, aimed at halving the number of smokers by 2020, become a reality. The new anti-smoking drive will also highlight the benefits of a smoke-free home and car. Critics have already dismissed the plans, saying that they are "meddlesome" and "unworkable" but Health Secretary Andy Burnham is unrepentant.

"I make no apology when it comes to protecting children and giving them the best start in life," he told the Daily Mail. "I want to see a smoke-free future, a future where people lead longer and healthier lives because they don't smoke."

But Simon Clark, director of lobby group Forest, insists that further laws "will further erode our ability to choose how we wish to live our lives." He added: "The current smoking ban, which has had a devastating impact on community pubs and clubs, is out of all proportion to the harm allegedly caused by second-hand smoke. Further restrictions will only accelerate that trend."

However, smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in Britain and is blamed for 1.4 million hospital admissions a year at a cost of £2.7 billion to the NHS. And while the majority would surely agree that protecting the young is a priority, many will argue that the revenue gained from tax on tobacco far outweighs the medical costs.

So are the proposals just one more step towards removing our freedom of choice, or are the Government right to take such measures in their bid for a smoke-free nation?