If Rishi Sunak is so insistent on donning his superman cape and saving the health of a generation with a sound-bite ban, he’d do better focus on the only group smoking more today than 10 years ago.

Middle-class, middle-aged women are more likely to be found dragging on a sneaky fag behind the garden shed or the office bike shed than schoolchildren.

Rates of new smokers among women aged 45 and under have risen by 25 per cent in the last decade.

These people are the ticking timebombs when it comes to health and future problems.

Overwhelmed by life – school runs, work demands, ageing parents, running a household, money worries, organising multiple lives and different schedules – they don’t have time to deal with a hangover, fit in yoga classes or take time to themselves so have replaced wine or gin o’clock with the odd cigarette as a coping mechanism. 

The older ones are more likely to be ex-smokers, more social than addicts, who stopped when they had children and are now craving a dopamine hit to help them cope and get through the stress.

Sneaking off delivers a break and solace from reality, a head rush and instant fix to get through the day. Having one or two a day, is their guilty pleasure, as they deal with the health effects of perimenopause and menopause along with everything else. A bit like the Valium-effect in the 1970s.

Roll-ups are their cigarette of choice, with the ritual of rolling the paper around the tobacco part of the relaxations wind-down moment to themselves.

While smoking rates rose among middle class women under 45, it fell in working class women of same age, who tend to turn to vapes, eschewed by stylish middle years women as tacky and like sucking on giant plastic dummies packed with sickly sweet chemicals.

Wholly aware that smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and illness in the UK, killing 76,000 deaths every year, they believe they are low risk – and a risk worth taking to keep their stress under control.

Speaking to this age group, the constant pressure they feel is relentless. 

It’s not called the sandwich generation for nothing.  Largely it’s the women bearing the burden of childcare, organising the family, working full time, dealing with older parents and keeping 101 balls in the air and feeling failure if one drops.

A cigarette a day brings momentary relaxation before jumping back on the treadmill of life.

MPs voted on Tuesday by 383 to 67 to back Sunak’s bill to make it illegal for anyone born in 2009 or later to buy tobacco products in the UK. The bill is likely to become law in the summer. 

Clearly eager to leave office with one positive legacy, Sunak was swayed by chief medical officer Chris Whitty’s case that a phased tobacco ban would save more lives than any other single policy.

An admirable aim pushed through for headlines ignoring so much more harder crises that need tackling. When children today have rickets, growing up in poverty-stricken damp homes because families can’t afford to out the heating on, it feels like fiddling when Rome burns.

When middle-years women keeping the fabric of the country together deserve some attention before they self-combust their contribution is taken for granted, as usual, because they just get on with everything without fuss.

Meanwhile, a ban only makes something even more tempting and drives a black market run by organised crime exposing customers to even more dangerous, criminally sourced products.

Meanwhile, obesity - a far harder nut to crack – continues to soar amid sales of rubbish processed chemical, fat and sugar-filled food and drink.

And let’s not forget how smokers help the national coffers by the tax on fags and their early death rates, which bring about massive savings on state pensions.

Meanwhile, the NHS is – and will be - still overwhelmed.

Desperate measures buy a desperate ineffective prime minister dining out on saving a generation but won’t be around to be called out when it doesn’t happen.

Once a symbol of feminism was to burn bras.
But women soon put them back on when the weight of female anatomy caused backaches, aching shoulders and neck pain because of the weight of their breasts. 
That was long before the furore about VAT on bras.
Bras are a basic necessity for women and should not be subject to VAT.
It’s a tax that disproportionately affects women and therefore discriminatory.

We need tax-free bras

Bras aren’t worn for cosmetic purposes. 

Poorly fitted bras can cause musculoskeletal problems. Radiographers who carry out X-rays, MRI and CT scans are calling for an end to VAT saying it is a discriminatory tax under the Equality Act.

When women have to spend upwards of £30 for a bra – there’s no change from £70 for a basic model from the late Queen’s bra fitters Rigby & Peller – properly fitted bras are out of so many women’s reach today storing up problems for the future and another demand on NHS services.

It feels like the need for a 2024 take-the-bra-off protest campaign at MPs weekly surgeries or outside Parliament, but it would be too painful.

Petitions and letters will have to suffice.