Peers call on government to publish Tobacco Control Plan

23 February 2017

A cross party and crossbench group of peers today called on the Government to publish the promised new tobacco control strategy without further delay.  The call followed an oral question by Lord Rennard of Wavertree (Liberal Democrat) who asked what further action the Government planned to take to reduce the incidence of smoking-related diseases.

Lord Rennard raised the drop in funding for mass media campaigns to reduce smoking which has fallen to less than a quarter of pre-2010 levels. In 2009-10, funding for mass media campaigns was nearly £25 million, but by 2015/16 it had been reduced to £5.3 million, with further cuts expected in 2016/17. [1] He referred to a particularly effective campaign promoted by Fresh – the North East of England regional tobacco control office – which has helped to reduce smoking rates there by a third.

Responding on behalf of the Government, Lord O’Shaughnessy said that mass media plans would continue to be part of the new plan.  However he was unable to confirm a publication date for the new strategy. Although he said that the Government was at an “advanced stage” with the new Tobacco Control Plan for England, he did not give a date for publication, saying only – as the Government has repeatedly done in the fifteen months since the last Plan expired – that it would be “soon”.

Other contributions from peers included:

·         Lord Faulkner of Worcester (Labour), who reminded the Government that Theresa May’s first speech as Prime Minister, where she promised to fight “the burning injustice that, if you’re born poor, you will die on average 9 years earlier than others.” Half the difference in life expectancy between the richest and the poorest social groups is due to differences in smoking prevalence. [2]

·         Lord Patel of Bradford (Crossbench) said that the Government should consider a radical commitment to England becoming entirely tobacco free, as in Finland.

·         Lord Ribiero of Ovington (Conservative) called for action to improve the performance of the NHS in offering advice and support to help patients to quit smoking, following a recent report from the British Thoracic Society criticising the wide variation in practice on this crucial health intervention across the NHS. [3]

·         Lord Hunt of  Kings Heath (Labour) suggested that the delay in publishing the new Control Plan might be partly due to major cuts in the public health grant to local authorities and called on the Government to go beyond promising to publish the Plan shortly. [4] Lord O’Shaughnessy replied that he would save synonyms for shortly for future debates in case they were needed again.

·         Lord Lawson of Blaby (Conservative) wrongly suggested that electronic cigarettes have been recognised by the Royal College of Physicians as the most effective method of quitting smoking (the RCP recognises that Stop Smoking Services are the most effective way to support quit attempts, together with medication and/or Nicotine Replacement Therapy). [5]  He also suggested that the “Great Repeal Bill” for leaving the European Union should repeal the UK law implementing the revised EU Tobacco Products Directive, which public health organisations agree would be disastrous for tobacco control policy.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of health charity ASH said:

“A new tobacco control plan for England has now been promised repeatedly, but we are still waiting, fifteen months after the last one expired.  Each day without a plan hundreds more children take up smoking, starting out on a path leading to smoking-related disease and premature death.  We need an ambitious new plan now to set targets for continued action to drive down smoking rates, across the population generally and among disadvantaged and vulnerable groups in particular.”



Notes and Links:

Hansard debate: TobaccoControlPlan

[1] HL Deb 14 September 2016 vol 774 c1537

[2] Statement from the new Prime Minister Theresa May. 13 July 2016.

[3] UK hospitals fail to meet national standards in helping patients quit smoking British Thoracic Society, 7 Dec 2016

[4] Public health functions were transferred to local authorities under the Health and Social Care Act 2012, supported by a ring fenced grant, originally of £2.8 billion in 2015/16. In June 2015, the Chancellor announced an in year cut to this grant of £200 million, in the 2016 Autumn Statement it was announced that the grant would be reduced by a further £84 million in 2017/18 and by an average of 3.9% each year until 2020.

[5]  RCP. Nicotine without smoke. Tobacco harm reduction A report of the Tobacco Advisory Group of the Royal College of Physicians.  London, April 2016


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

ASH receives core funding from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.

ASH provides the secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health.



Contact:   Deborah Arnott 020 7404 0242 (w) or 07976 935 987 (m)