Parliamentarians call on Government to end the tobacco epidemic by 2030



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Wednesday 9th June 2021

Parliamentarians call on Government to end the tobacco epidemic by 2030

Today [Wednesday 9th June] the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health [1] warns the Government that it can only build back better and fairer from the pandemic by making smoking obsolete. Now, say the cross-party group of MPs and peers, is the time for Government to commit to the actions needed to secure its vision of a Smokefree 2030.

They note that, as the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, pointed out recently, this is an industry that kills people for profit, and more people are likely to have died last year and this year from smoking than COVID-19. [2] Smoking not only kills people prematurely, it also drives them into poverty and reduces healthy life expectancy, with smokers needing help with everyday tasks 7 years earlier than those who’ve never smoked. [3] But this burden is not equal. Smoking is concentrated among disadvantaged groups locking in poverty and poor health across the generations. [4]

The All Party Group report, published today,[5] urges the Government to use the opportunity provided by Brexit to step up and take its place on the world stage as a global leader in tobacco control. The report’s recommendations include:

  • Funding for tobacco control programmes to be secured through a ‘polluter pays’ amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill, forcing manufacturers to pay to deliver the end of smoking.
  • Targeted investment to provide additional support to help smokers quit in regions and communities where smoking does most damage. This includes those in routine and manual jobs and the unemployed; living in social housing; with a mental health condition; and pregnant smokers.
  • Tougher tobacco regulations to protect children and young people from becoming smokers and help smokers quit, such as putting health warnings on cigarettes and consulting on raising the age of sale to 21.

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

“Our report sets out measures which will put us on track to achieve the Government’s ambition to end smoking by 2030, but they can’t be delivered without funding. Tobacco manufacturers make extreme profits selling highly addictive, lethal products, while government coffers are bare because of COVID-19. The manufacturers have the money, they should be made to pay to end the epidemic.”

Mary Kelly Foy MP (Vice Chair of the APPG, City of Durham, Labour) said:

“I’m an MP from the North East, the poorest region in the country where smoking rates have historically been high. That’s why, although we’ve made good progress in recent years, we still suffer disproportionately from disease, disability and death caused by smoking. The APPG report recommendations will sever the ‘iron chain’ linking smoking and disadvantage. They are essential if we are to build back fairer and level up communities like my own.”

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH, said,

“We all applauded when the Government announced its ambition for a Smokefree 2030. But that was two years ago, the time has now come to deliver. Currently smoking rates are not declining nearly fast enough. If, as called for by the APPG, the recommendations in its report are implemented by 2022 we can get on track to make smoking obsolete by 2030.”

Prof Linda Bauld, Director of the SPECTRUM public health research consortium said,

“The members of our academic consortium, SPECTRUM, are delighted that our research has helped provide the evidence base for the APPG’s recommendations to government for the next Tobacco Control Plan for England. Using research to prevent and address the harm caused by unhealthy commodities like tobacco by identifying and evaluating solutions, is our core mission.”

 

Widespread public support

The report highlights evidence showing widespread public support for government action with low levels of opposition. More than three quarters (76%) of the public support the Government’s Smokefree 2030 ambition (7% oppose). There is widespread support for specific policy interventions too. 77% support making tobacco manufacturers pay a levy or licence fee to Government for measures to help smokers quit and prevent young people from taking up smoking (6% oppose), while 63% support increasing the age of sale from 18 to 21 (15% oppose).

Figures are available at regional level for England in table below. [6]

These measures are supported by voters for all parties. More than three quarters of those surveyed who voted Conservative (76%), Labour (82%) or Liberal Democrat (87%) in the 2019 election support the idea of a levy on tobacco manufacturers. Strongest support for raising the age to 21 comes from those who voted Conservative in 2019, two thirds (66%) of whom support raising the age of sale to 21 compared with 63% of Labour voters and 64% of Liberal Democrat voters.[6]

Ex-smoker Sue Mountain underwent laser treatment in 2012 after a biopsy revealed she had laryngeal cancer. The cancer returned in 2017 which required radiotherapy every day for four weeks.

“I fully support the APPG report and urge the Government to accept its recommendations – we have a real opportunity to end the harm caused by tobacco once and for all.

“As a former smoker and cancer survivor, I’m one of the lucky ones. Smoking makes life a misery for many thousands of people every year who suffer from debilitating diseases before it kills them. It’s shocking that tobacco companies are making massive profits from an addiction that robs people of their lives and their health. I believe they should be made to pay for the damage they do.”

Joanna Hart from Devon recently stopped smoking and she also backs further action to end smoking:

“As someone who quit smoking during the pandemic I want to see a future where smoking is obsolete. Since I was a teen I’ve been addicted to something that was damaging my physical and mental health. Stopping was transformative. But quitting can be tough and having help makes all the difference. The Government should reset the balance between tobacco companies and smokers. The companies that have profited from the lifelong addictions of people like me should pay for the support smokers need.”

 

Endorsed by health organisations

The report and its recommendations have been endorsed by leading health organisations including: the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, the Association of Directors of Public Health, Asthma UK, the British Heart Foundation, the British Lung Foundation, the British Thoracic Society, Cancer Research UK, the Faculty of Public Health, the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, the Health Foundation, the Royal Society of Public Health and the Royal College of Physicians. Quotes from endorsing organisations are set out below. [7]

END

 

Notes to editors

For more information contact Anna Hodgson at Gardiner Richardson on annah@gardiner-richardson.com or 07970 729758 / Sarah Jeffery at Gardiner Richardson on sarahj@gardiner-richardson.com or 07790 339059.

[1] Information about the APPG on Smoking and health can be found at: https://ash.org.uk/category/about-ash/all-party-parliamentary-group-on-smoking-health/

[2] Prof Chris Whitty Chief Medical Officer. Trends in Health in the UK: The Implications for the NHS (gresham.ac.uk)

[3] ASH. The Cost of Smoking to the Social Care System. March 2021

[4] Office of National Statistics (ONS). Adult smoking habits in the UK: 2019.

[5] Delivering a Smokefree 2030: The All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health recommendations for the Tobacco Control Plan 2021 is available from ash.org.uk/appgtcp2021 from Wednesday 9th June. Embargoed copies can be obtained in advance from Gardiner Richardson or press@ash.org.uk. The report was commissioned from Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) who provide the secretariat for the APPG, and was researched and written with support from SPECTRUM, the consortium of academics from ten UK universities funded by the UK Prevention Research Partnership to research the health and economic impacts of policy interventions, including on the wider economy.

[6] Online survey by YouGov for ASH. Total sample size was 10,211 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 18th February – 18th March 2021.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all adults in England (aged 18+).

Regional data table:

Region Government’s ambition to reduce smoking prevalence to less than 5% by 2030 Tobacco manufacturers required to pay a levy to Government for measures to help smokers quit and prevent young people from taking up smoking Increasing the age of sale for tobacco from 18 to 21
South West Support 78%

Oppose 7%

Support 79%

Oppose 6%

Support 63%

Oppose 14%

East Midlands Support 73%

Oppose 6%

Support 76%

Oppose 5%

Support 60%

Oppose 16%

West Midlands Support 75%

Oppose 7%

Support 75%

Oppose 6%

Support 63%

Oppose 13%

East of England Support 74%

Oppose 9%

Support 76%

Oppose 7%

Support 64%

Oppose 14%

London Support 76%

Oppose 6%

Support 76%

Oppose 7%

Support 61%

Oppose 18%

North East Support 78%

Oppose 7%

Support 75%

Oppose 5%

Support 65%

Oppose 11%

North West Support 76%

Oppose 6%

Support 78%

Oppose 6%

Support 64%

Oppose 15%

South East Support 77%

Oppose 7%

Support 79%

Oppose 6%

Support 65%

Oppose 15%

Yorkshire and Humber Support 76%

Oppose 7%

Support 80%

Oppose 5%

Support 64%

Oppose 14%

 

[7] Quotes from endorsing organisations:

Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges said,

“The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges is delighted to endorse the APPG report, and we very much hope to see all its recommendations included in the forthcoming Tobacco Control Plan.”

“It is essential that all who care about the health of our population come together to tackle smoking once and for all. Doctors from the breadth of medicine are acutely aware of the harms it causes our patients and if we can end smoking for good there will be huge, measurable improvement in health of the population in conditions like diabetes, cancers, dementia, mental health, heart disease and stroke, not forgetting the wide range of respiratory diseases. The benefits to people undergoing surgery and to women in pregnancy and their young children as well as to the families of people who currently smoke are also hugely significant.”

 

Prof Maggie Rae, President of the Faculty of Public Health said,

“Smoking remains the leading cause of health inequalities, responsible for half the difference in life expectancy between the richest and poorest in our communities.”

“The Government can only live up to its pledge to transform the public’s health, while building back fairer, healthier and more resilient from COVD-19, by delivering on its ambition to make smoking obsolete. That’s why the Faculty of Public Health is endorsing the APPG’s report and recommendations which charts a clear route to a Smokefree 2030.”

 

Dr Charmaine Griffiths, Chief Executive of the British Heart Foundation said,

“Recent progress in reducing smoking rates must not lead to complacency in stopping the devastation it causes millions of families across the country. Smoking remains a leading cause of death from heart and circulatory diseases in the UK and it’s an addiction that disproportionately affects the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.”

“As outlined in the APPG’s report, turning England into a smokefree country by 2030 is achievable and we’ve made great strides. But to go further will require bold action such as putting health warnings on individual cigarettes, ensuring big tobacco takes responsibility for the harm its products cause, and providing adequate funding for stop smoking services that save lives.”

 

Alison Cook, Director of External Affairs at Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, said:

“Smoking still accounts for 35% of all respiratory deaths in England each year and it is still the leading cause of preventable lung diseases such as lung cancer and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). We welcome the recommendations in this report, which include targeted support for people to successfully quit this deadly addiction.

“If the government is serious about reaching its own target of becoming smoke-free by 2030, it needs to do much more by urgently providing sustainable funding for the delivery of stop smoking services across the NHS and in the community, as a broad offer is highly effective in supporting people to quit.

“Without action now, we will continue to see thousands of people die every year as a result of preventable lung diseases linked to smoking.”