Rishi Sunak's bid to make it impossible for young people to ever smoke has passed its first parliamentary hurdle, but the Prime Minister's authority has been dealt another blow after many Conservative MPs refused to back the legislation.

Labour, the SNP and the Lib Dems all supported the proposal, with the parties whipping their MPs to vote for the Tobacco and Vapes Bill at its second reading in the Commons.

However, the government decided it was an issue of conscience and allowed Tory ministers and backbenchers a free vote.

In the end, the Bill passed by 383 vote to 67. Some 57 Tory MPs rebelled. There were a number of abstentions, including Scottish Secretary Alister Jack.

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The Bill would make it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born after January 1 2009, which covers children who are currently 15 or younger.

High profile rebels included Kemi Badenoch, the Secretary of State for Business and Trade, and a favourite to one day replace Mr Sunak.

Writing on X before the vote, she said: “I have significant concerns and appreciate the PM making this a free vote. It gives me the opportunity to express my personal view, outside collective responsibility.

“The principle of equality under the law is a fundamental one. It underpins many of my personal beliefs.”

She added: “We should not treat legally competent adults differently in this way, where people born a day apart will have permanently different rights.

“Among other reasons it will create difficulties with enforcement. This burden will fall not on the state but on private businesses.

“Smoking rates are already declining significantly in the UK and I think there is more we can do to stop children taking up the habit.

“However, I do not support the approach this Bill is taking and so will be voting against it.”

Former prime minister Liz Truss also said she would not back the legislation, describing it as a “virtue-signalling piece of legislation” from a “technocratic establishment” aiming to “limit people’s freedom.”

She said she was “disappointed” that a Tory Government was bringing it forward, She claimed there were enough “finger-wagging, nannying control freaks” on the opposition benches willing to support the proposals, urging Conservatives to “stand by our principles and our ideals”.

Other former Tory ministers supported the plans, with ex-health secretary Sir Sajid Javid criticising colleagues for “choosing to stand up for big tobacco against the interest of their constituents”.

Home Office minister Laura Farris, who took up smoking at 12, said she would back the plan to ban youngsters from ever legally being able to buy cigarettes.

“It took me years and years and years to quit. It’s one of my biggest regrets, actually.

“I’ve got two young kids now and the fact that they will never be able to walk into a shop and buy a packet of cigarettes is something I welcome.

“I have never met a single smoker who’s glad they did it, wishes that their children do it, can identify a single health benefit or any other life benefit.

“It gets you hooked. It’s a horrible habit. And even when you’re doing it, you know that you’re causing yourself irreparable harm. And it’s incredibly difficult to get off.”

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Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting confirmed Labour would give its “wholehearted” support to the Bill.

He added that his party is “only too happy to defend the Health Secretary against the siren voices of big tobacco” gathered on the Tory benches.

The SNP’s Kirsten Oswald said any arguments about personal choice or personal freedom “make no sense at all when we are talking about children and a highly addictive substance.”

She added: “Smoking is not a free choice, it is an addiction. Nicotine is a horribly addictive substance. That is why this is a positive and necessary move.”