MPs call on Government to publish new Tobacco Control Plan without further delay



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13 October 2016

Members of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health will today be calling on the Government to publish its promised new Tobacco Control Plan without further delay. [1] The Government committed to a new plan after the previous one expired in December 2015 and to publication in summer 2016, but summer has passed and there is still no publication date.

There is widespread public support for Government action to limit smoking.  A recent large public poll found that over a third (35%) of  adults in Britain thought the Government’s activities to tackle smoking were about right, while nearly 4 in 10 (39%) thought the Government was not doing enough. Only 11% thought the Government was doing too much.  [2]

In today’s debate members of the APPG will be focusing on the stark health inequalities across the country, of which smoking is the major driver. The importance of tackling health inequalities was recognised by Theresa May when, in her maiden speech, the new Prime Minister committed her Government to “fighting against the burning injustice that if you’re born poor you will die on average nine years earlier than others.”

Half of this difference in life expectancy is solely due to higher rates of smoking among the least affluent members of society, with smoking rates among those with multiple complex needs reaching as high as 80 per cent.

Under the previous Tobacco Control Plan for England a great deal was achieved with smoking rates falling among both adults and children below the target levels and rates of smoking during pregnancy falling to the 11% target earlier this year. [3]

However, while Britain remains a world leader in tobacco control, smoking is still responsible for approximately 78,000 preventable and premature deaths every year in England alone, and almost 100,000 across the UK.

Members of the APPG will stress the importance of a renewed Government strategy on tobacco that is sustained and progressive.

Bob Blackman MP (Harrow East: Conservative, Chair of the APPG) said:

“The UK has an excellent record in tackling smoking but we can’t afford to rest on our laurels. The evidence is clear: without a renewed strategy there’s a real risk that smoking rates will rise again. 

“I recognise the need to control public expenditure but measures to drive down smoking are cost-effective and will result in reductions in heart disease, lung cancer and respiratory disease, with the potential to save the over-stretched NHS billions of pounds a year.”

Mr. Blackman added that he strongly believed that the tobacco industry should be required to contribute to the costs of treating people with diseases caused by smoking.

“Given the appalling damage the tobacco industry causes, and given that the major companies are vastly profitable, I cannot see why they should not be required to make a greater financial contribution to help solve the public health disaster they have worked to create.  I can’t imagine a more appropriate application of the polluter pays principle.”

Alex Cunningham (Stockton North: Labour) said:

“While smoking rates among the adult population have fallen in recent years, health inequalities have remained stubbornly high with poorer people at least twice as likely to smoke as those who are well-off.  These higher rates of smoking place a significant financial burden on poorer members of society.  Helping disadvantaged people to quit is not only good for their health but can also help lift families out of poverty.

“The new Tobacco Control Plan therefore needs to prioritise cutting health inequalities, rather than budgets, and in doing so must protect public health funding for tobacco control.” 

ENDS 

Notes

[1] Westminster Hall debate:  13 Oct. 2016 13.30-16.30. The motion is: “That this House has considered the tobacco control strategy.”

[2] ASH/YouGov Smokefree GB survey 2016. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 12157 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 2nd to 23rd March 2016 The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

[3] Healthy Lives, Healthy People: The Tobacco Control Plan for England was published in March 2011.  It set an ambition to reduce smoking among adults to 18.5% or less by the end of 2015; to reduce smoking among 15 year olds to 12% of less; and to reduce smoking among pregnant women to 11% of less.  The targets for the adults and 15 year olds were met and the target for smoking in pregnancy was reached by Jan. 2016.

ASH provides the Secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health