Boris Johnson has hit out at Rishi Sunak’s smoking policy, branding his plan to phase out the sale of tobacco products “nuts”.

The current prime minister announced his proposal at the Conservative Party conference in 2023, saying he would raise the legal age for buying cigarettes in England by one year every year, eventually leading to a “smoke-free” generation.

But his predecessor in Downing Street joined another former leader, Liz Truss, in criticising the move.

While Mr Sunak’s policy has been praised by health professionals, it has also been deemed by some to limit freedoms.

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Speaking at a right-wing conference in Canada on Wednesday night, Mr Johnson said: “We are, on the whole, in favour of freedom and it is that single Anglo-Saxon idea of freedom that I think unites conservatives, or should unite conservatives.

“And when I look at some of the things that we are doing now, or that are being done in the name of conservatism, I think they are absolutely nuts.”

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Smoking age to rise every year – Sunak’s announcement in 2023

‘Donnez-moi un break’

Singling out the smoking policy, the ex-prime minister added: “When the party of Winston Churchill wants to ban cigars, donnez-moi un break, as they say in Quebec – it’s just mad.”

The ex-PM previously used the phrase “donnez-moi un break” when he was in Downing Street, after France expressed anger with Australia’s decision to pull out of a submarine contract to join the AUKUS (Australia, UK, US) defence pact.

He said of the French: “I just think it’s time for some of our dearest friends around the world to prenez un grip [get a grip] about all this and donnez-moi un break [give me a break].”

Mr Sunak’s proposed bill on smoking has not been approved by parliament yet, but will appear in front of MPs in the Commons on 16 April.

The legislation is expected to pass, as the plan has the support of the Labour Party, but Mr Sunak could still face a rebellion from the right wing of his own backbenchers.

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