Tobacco: Wanless delivers, Chancellor doesn’t

Wednesday 17 April 2002

ASH Budget news release:  Wednesday 17th April 2002
The Chancellor has continued a freeze in real terms on tobacco tax (increasing the price of 20 cigarettes by 6p)- ASH was hoping for a more strategic approach to tobacco pricing and to have 2p in the pound channelled back to smokers to help them quit.  However, the Chancellor’s rejection of the persistent demands of the tobacco industry to roll back tobacco tax to tackle smuggling is absolutely right.

Clive Bates, Director of the anti-tobacco campaigning group ASH, said:

Raising tobacco taxes saves lives  – it’s as simple as that. The problem is that as people get wealthier as incomes rise, cigarettes become more affordable and more attractive.   We needed to hear a commitment to raise the actual prices paid by the smoker above the rate of inflation, and he had nothing to say about what he is trying to achieve with tobacco tax.

We need high prices to create disincentives to smoke and to stop smoking being more affordable over time.  When the price goes up, people quit or better still, younger people never start in the first place.

ASH said the Chancellor had announced nothing so far to make the tobacco tax fair.  Over 20 organisations had called for 2p in every pound of tobacco tax  (£152 million of the £7.6 billion raised in tobacco duties) to be allocated to helping smokers, especially low-income smokers, to quit.

While raising tobacco prices is essential to protect health and raise money, it does have to be done fairly and recognising that the tax falls heavily on the poor. We were looking for him to find just two pence in every pound of tobacco duty for helping smokers to quit.

As it stands, he’s taking money from smokers with one hand, but not giving anything like enough back with the other.  The onus is now on the Chancellor to approve substantial increased spending on helping smokers to quit as part of the comprehensive spending review.

The budget submission made by 20 health organisations is here (ASH press release with links to submission).

ASH applauded the very substantial recognition in the Wanless Review, announced earlier in the day, of the role that tobacco policy can play in reducing the burdens on the NHS.

Wanless really has shown how tobacco policy can help to reduce the burden of disease on the NHS and reduce the expenditure on drugs used to treat heart disease.  The report’s most progressive scenario suggests that we should have the same ambitions to reduce smoking as California and we think that is ambitious and achievable.

ASH has extracted some the sections of the Wanless review relevant to tobacco here (pdf).

Clive Bates, Director of the anti-tobacco campaigning group ASH, said:

Truly joined up thinking would have linked the progressive scenarios of the Wanless Review with adequate funding for tobacco policy from the Chancellor.  That is something that we hope is still to come.

Notes and links:

[1] Wanless Review Securing our future health: taking a long term view