ASH welcomes Budget proposals to tackle illicit tobacco, disappointed tobacco levy not finalised
ASH welcomed the package of measures announced in today’s Budget to tackle illicit tobacco but was disappointed that detailed proposals for a levy on the tobacco industry were not included.
The expected tobacco duty rise of 2% above inflation has also been welcomed by ASH although the charity is concerned that the Chancellor has not done enough to close the gap between the rate of tax on manufactured and hand-rolled tobacco.
Amanda Sandford, Information Manager at ASH said:
“It’s disappointing that the tobacco levy was not included in the Budget although we welcome the opportunity to continue a dialogue with the Government on this important policy. The levy must be used to reduce the harm that smoking causes – to pay for Stop Smoking Services, for example. We will be working hard to persuade Government and politicians that simply using the levy to help reduce the deficit is not enough.”
Meanwhile ASH welcomes MP Paul Burstow’s 10 minute rule bill, to be tabled next week, when parliament will discuss how this type of model should be used to invest in tobacco control.
ASH also welcomed the announcement that the government will introduce a registration scheme for users and dealers of raw tobacco to reduce the risk of raw tobacco being diverted into the illegal market.
 A submission to the Treasury in advance of the Budget by ASH and the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies (UKCTCS), endorsed by 64 health organisations, had recommended the introduction of a tobacco levy; a minimum consumption tax; and a registration scheme to improve controls on raw tobacco, in response to a series of HMRC consultations.
The submission is available at: http://www.ash.org.uk/files/documents/ASH_952.pdf
 A consultation on a tobacco levy was announced by Chancellor George Osborne in the 2014 Autumn Statement. The Labour Opposition has also announced its support for a levy. But neither the Government nor Opposition has promised to spend the money on paying for tobacco control measures around the country, although they are highly cost effective and essential if the NHS is to achieve its aim of closing a forecast £30 billion funding gap through public health and prevention action.
The levy should be based on sales data, which the tobacco industry would be required to publish at local, regional and national level. If any of the levy is passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices, this will have some public health benefits, since price increases are known to be the single most effective policy lever in reducing smoking prevalence. However, the benefits to public health will only be fully realised if the proceeds of the levy are used to fund tobacco control action to increase quit rates beyond what might be expected as a result of price rises.
Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. For more information see: www.ash.org.uk/about-ash
ASH receives core funding from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.