Health Select Committee inquiry report calls for more action to reduce smoking to narrow the gap in health inequalities

Friday 13 March 2009

The importance of reducing smoking to narrow the gap in health inequalities is one of the key messages to emerge from the Health Select Committee’s inquiry into health inequalities, released today. The Committee acknowledges that the Government has been effective in implementing some tobacco control measures, for example the public places smoking ban, but recommends ways in which smoking rates could be further cut to narrow the health gap between rich and poor. [1]

With regard to tobacco smuggling, for example, although there has been a reduction in the market share of illicit cigarettes, the Committee notes that there has been no progress in reducing black market hand-rolled tobacco, which is smoked almost exclusively by people in lower socio-economic groups.

On smoking the Committee recommends:
• Rewarding GPs for success in helping people to stop smoking (rather than just identifying and recording the number of patients who smoke)
• The reinstating of tough new targets to tackle smuggling and better monitoring to ensure that it remains a high priority
• The UK should sign the agreements with Philip Morris International and Japan Tobacco International to tightly control the supply of tobacco.


ASH Chief Executive, Deborah Arnott, welcomed the report saying:

“The HSC quite rightly recognises that driving down smoking rates is essential if we are to break once and for all the iron link between deprivation and tobacco use. Tobacco smuggling in particular hits our poorest communities hardest and while the Government’s recently published new strategy is a step in the right direction, as the HSC concludes, it is not yet sufficiently ambitious. We urge the Government to take on board the HSC’s recommendations and go further.” [2]



Notes and links
[1] Health Inequalities. House of Commons Health Committee. Third Report of Session 2008-09. Vol 1. TSO, 2009
[2] Other measures that ASH is calling for include:
• Reintroduce a real price escalator on tobacco tax of 3% above inflation;
• Increase the tax rate on Hand-Rolled Tobacco (HRT) and cigars at least in line with cigarettes; and
• To apply the increases to the specific element of taxation as far as possible.
• Consideration should be given to applying higher taxation levels on tobacco accessories that are used exclusively or mostly as a means to smoke hand-rolled tobacco (HRT) in order to help reduce the affordability of this type of cigarette.
Contact: Deborah Arnott 020 7739 5902 (w); 079 7693 5987 (m)
Or Amanda Sandford 020 7739 5902