Tobacco tax: 20 health groups call on Brown to put 2p in the pound into helping low-income smokers to quit

Wednesday 10 April 2002

ASH news release:  Embargo: 00:01 Wednesday 10th April 2002
Over 20 health organisations have written to the Treasury to demand that more tobacco tax is spent on helping low-income smokers to quit [1]. The groups say that for tobacco tax to be fair, smokers must be given every possible help to quit and they have called for just 2p in every pound of tobacco duty to be spent on tobacco policy – £152 million from the £7.6 billion raised each year (excluding VAT).  That would be 2-3 times the current level of expenditure, but only one-tenth of what smoking costs the NHS each year  (£1.5 billion per year) [2] and extremely cost-effective use of NHS funds.  The ASH submission to the Wanless Review [3] showed that treating tobacco at source could play a major role in NHS modernisation and the groups want to see the Chancellor build this into his thinking in the Budget.

Clive Bates, Director of ASH said:

“If they want the tobacco tax to pass the fairness test, then we are saying the government is morally obliged to do all it can to help smokers quit. Just 2p in every pound is hardly an excessive sum to return to smokers to help them quit, and it would pay great dividends for health and the NHS.  This budget has to combine revenue raising, incentives to quit and proper support for smokers to create a single coherent tobacco tax policy.

Sir Paul Nurse, Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK said:

“If we are also going to tackle cancer at source then we need to use the price incentive to encourage smokers to quit.  This encouragement needs to coupled with first class help from the NHS that want to kick the habit – including developing the cessation services and ending the uncertainty over their long term funding.

Professor John Britton, Chairman of the Royal College of Physicians Tobacco Advisory Group said:

“In terms of NHS reform, there is an inescapable logic in tackling the largest single avoidable driver of disease. We put a good case to the Wanless team for spending substantial funds to tackle tobacco and we hope the Chancellor will find the money in the Budget and comprehensive spending review.

The organisations maintained their support for continuing price increases.

Belinda Linden, Head of Medical Information at the British Heart Foundation said:

“We need to ensure that smoking doesn’t become more affordable over time as incomes rise but importantly tobacco tax policy must be backed up by support for smokers that want to quit. This is one of the key strategies in tackling heart disease in the UK.

Jane Landon of the National Heart Forum said:

“As soon as smokers quit, the risk of heart disease and stroke starts to fall and the benefits to individuals, to the NHS and to society begin to flow immediately.

Research for the No Smoking Day organisation [4] shows that 36% of smokers cite ‘expense’ as a reason for saying they would not smoke if they had their time again.

Doreen McIntyre, Chief Executive of No Smoking Day said:

“After health, smokers say that the expense is the main reason for wanting to give up.  Raising the price does emphasise what rotten value smoking is and does give many smokers just the excuse they need to make a really serious attempt to quit.

Notes and links:

[1] Tobacco tax in the 2002 Budget [submission] (pdf)

[2] Parrott S, Godfrey C, Raw M, West R, McNeill A. Guidance for commissioners on the cost effectiveness of smoking cessation interventions. Thorax 1998; 53 Suppl 5 Pt 2:S1-38. (view article)

[3] See ASH submission (pdf) to Wanless Review on the future of the NHS, January 2002

[4] No Smoking Day, A picture of misery, March 2002. (pdf).