(Bloomberg) -- Rishi Sunak’s government has ditched the landmark smoking ban he said would transform future generations and save the National Health Service billions of pounds, after the prime minister’s decision to call an early UK election left too little time to get it through Parliament.

The plan to gradually phase out smoking — by increasing the legal age for buying cigarettes by one year annually — was regarded as one of the legacy moves of Sunak’s premiership, which polls predict will end when Britons cast their votes on July 4. England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, who became a household name during the pandemic, had hailed it as a “major public health achievement” that would have resulted in the world’s toughest smoking ban.

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But Sunak’s government did not include it in the final rush of legislation to be passed on Friday, the last sitting day of Parliament before the election. Speaking to reporters, Sunak said he was “disappointed” — though he pointed out that if the Conservatives are re-elected, he would proceed with the ban.

Few expect the Tories to win, and while Keir Starmer’s opposition Labour Party supported the ban and could well pick up the baton, Sunak’s decision risks robbing himself of being able to claim a widely popular measure.

It’s one of the reasons why Sunak’s announcement on Wednesday, delivered outside Downing Street during a rainstorm, caught so many in Westminster off guard. Most observers thought he would wait to call a general election in the autumn, in part to wait for better economy and also to get key bills finished.

Sunak, who rarely fails to mention that he “comes from an NHS family” in his speeches, had used considerable political capital to overrule right-wing Tory MPs who were opposed to the ban on ideological grounds. It was also a key element of his speech to the Conservative Party conference last year, as he tried to reset the political narrative and chose the poll gap to Labour.

It’s not the only legislation that the government has ditched. Another is the Renters’ Reform Bill, which included the Conservative Party’s 2019 manifesto promise to ban what are known as “no fault evictions.” The plan to set up a football regulator was also dropped from the final “wash-up” list.

“There’s always a normal process at the end of a Parliament to see which legislation you can pass in the time that’s available,” Sunak said.

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