Wes Streeting said work will fall “like a ton of bricks” on the vaping industry unless Rishi Sunak “pulls his finger out” and introduces regulations.
The shadow health secretary attacked the Prime Minister, saying he had led a government that was “sleeping at the wheel” while a generation of children became addicted to nicotine.
In an interview with Guardian editor Katharine Viner at the Labor Party’s annual conference in Liverpool, Streeting told stories of teachers concerned about students struggling with withdrawal symptoms in class.
“The e-cigarette industry, which presented itself as the angel of smoking cessation services with this beautiful new device that you can inhale and is much less harmful, thought they were doing us a favor. And to a certain extent they were, until they started marketing their e-cigarettes in brightly colored packaging… and thereby addicted a generation of children to nicotine.
“We’re not going to forgive or forget because what I’m hearing from teachers … is that they have to lock toilets in schools because the kids are smoking and smoking.”
In a warning to the industry, Streeting said: “(Labour) will ban the marketing, advertising and sale of e-cigarettes to children and if this government does not pull its finger out and move forward before the general election, we will do so.” Raining a ton of bricks on the e-cigarette industry.”
Streeting also said Rishi Sunak’s plans to stop the next generation from smoking were announced without acknowledging the New Zealand Labor Party, which first implemented the policy.
Regarding the state of the NHS, Streeting reiterated that the health service is “not the envy of the world”. Asked whether Labor was capable of improving it, he said he had tried to shake off some of the “rose-tinted sentimentality” around health care because he wanted to be realistic.
“This is the paradox of the NHS. It is one of the greatest institutions this country has ever built. It is the closest thing we have – apologies to the leader of my church, the Archbishop of Canterbury – but the closest thing we have to a national religion.”
However, he said health services in other countries achieved better results because they detected disease earlier, had more equipment and ran a preventive health service rather than a sick service, which he said the NHS had become.
His comments came after Keir Starmer said doctors would agree to his plan for extra weekend appointments to reduce England’s NHS waiting lists, even though they could earn more from private work.
The Labor leader’s overtime plan promises to allow the NHS to offer an extra 2 million operations, scans and appointments in the first year. An extra £1.1 billion will provide overtime for NHS staff to work evening and weekend shifts so more procedures can be carried out.
The measure is part of Labour’s NHS proposals – which also include additional scanners and dental reforms – worth around £1.6 billion.
Starmer told the BBC that doctors “will probably get more (money) in the private sector” but he believed they would work overtime for the NHS “because they also want to reduce the waiting list”.
“They (NHS staff) want to do this as much as we do and it is urgently needed. We need growth in our economy, we need to raise living standards across the country. We will never do that with the chaos this government has wreaked on the NHS.”
Royal College of Nursing director of nursing Prof Nicola Ranger said: “Nurses work so much overtime that never gets paid – staying an hour or two back after 12-hour shifts to keep patients safe – so “A change in this culture is required.”