In advance of the Budget, Treasury urged to do more to support the Government ambition for a “smokefree generation”

24 October 2017

The Government received a timely reminder of the importance of effective taxation and regulation of tobacco products from public health experts in a meeting yesterday with the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury. The meeting was ahead of the Budget on November 22nd.

Representatives from Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), the UK Centre for Alcohol and Tobacco Studies, and Cancer Research UK met with the Minister to outline their priorities and recommendations for the 2017 Budget, as endorsed by 35 other public health organisations.[1] These include a continued commitment to the tobacco tax escalator to raise tax on tobacco above inflation every year during this parliament.

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of public health charity Action on Smoking and Health, said:

“Raising taxes on tobacco to reduce affordability is the most effective way to reduce smoking. [2] We call on the Government to renew the tobacco tax escalator which increases taxes above inflation for this parliament. This will demonstrate that the Government’s stated commitment to a smokefree generation is genuine.” [3]

New research on tobacco industry pricing by the University of Bath and Kings College London, and funded by NIHR, has just been published [4] and shows that the tobacco industry has undermined tobacco tax policy to keep tobacco cheap. The Government is urged to take action to prevent this in future.

Professor Anna Gilmore, senior author on the study and Director of the Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath, said:

“The tobacco industry uses cheap products to hook children into a deadly habit and keep smokers who would otherwise quit, smoking. The government has closed some loopholes enabling it to do this, but more needs to be done. It should increase the tax on roll your own tobacco which is much lower than that of factory made cigarettes and ensure minimum excise taxes are uprated at every budget.”

Also on the agenda for the meeting was the sale of illicit tobacco. One of the most effective ways to reduce this illicit trade, which harms the public purse as well as consumers, is to implement a tobacco supply chain licensing system which should be independent of, but paid for by the tobacco manufacturers, as required by the terms of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Illicit Trade Protocol.

Professor John Britton, Director of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, said:

“The tobacco industry has a history of fuelling the trade in illicit tobacco. [5] It is only right that they should meet the costs of a new system to prevent such skulduggery in the future.”

The Department of Health published its Tobacco Control Plan for England in July, called “Towards a Smokefree Generation”. [3] The plan sets out several ambitious targets for reducing smoking prevalence. These ambitions will only be realised by ensuring that tobacco products continue to be made less affordable and by providing adequate funding for stop smoking services and initiatives that limit smoking initiation, especially among young people.


Notes and Links:

Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. For more information see:

ASH receives funding for its programme of work from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.

ASH staff are available for interview and have an ISDN line. For more information contact ASH on 020 7404 0242 or out of hours Hazel Cheeseman on 07754 358 593.


[1] ASH/UKCTAS budget submission endorsed by 36 other public health organisations and accompanying letter to the minister.

[2] WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic 2015. Raising taxes on tobacco.

[3] Towards a smoke-free generation: tobacco control plan for England. Department of Health, July 2017

[4] Hiscock R. Branston JR. McNeill A. Hitchman SC. Partos TR. Gilmore AB. Tobacco industry strategies undermine government tax policy: evidence from commercial data. Tobacco Control 2017.

NB The study was funded by the NIHR Public Health Research Programme (project number 13/43/58).

[5] See evidence set out in ASH/UKCTAS budget submission page 8 points 36-38


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