UK health groups call for radical tobacco tax budget

Thursday 16 March 2000

Press Release
Pre-budget comment:
16th March 2000
Action on Smoking
and Health

Over 40 health and medical organisations have combined to put their views on tobacco tax to the Chancellor. In Tobacco taxation in the 2000 budget[1], the groups call for:

  • Continued tobacco duty increases to take the price of leading brands over £4.00.  Tobacco prices must keep pace with the growth in incomes (above inflation) to prevent tobacco becoming more affordable.  This is an important health and economic policy.
  • Allocation of additional revenues from a1% real tax increase to the NHS specifically for smoking cessation.  This would fund a world-class service. The Chancellor has already agreed to allocate additional tax revenues to the NHS (though not specifically to smoking), stating that a 5% real increase would raise £300 million for the NHS [2].


  • Comprehensive package of penalties, anti-fraud markings, Customs & Excise resources and security and accountability within the tobacco distribution chain to combat smuggling.  The organisations are resolute that smuggling should not be addressed by reversing tax policies.


SirAlexander Macara, chairman of the National Heart Forum said:  “Increasing tax oncigarettes saves lives by discouraging smoking and we want to see a further reasonable increase in the budget.  It is quite literally a matter of life and death: the Chancellor’s tobacco tax decision critically affects the national burden of heart disease, emphysema and cancer.”

ProfessorGordon McVie, Director General of the Cancer Research Campaign, said: “The only way Gordon Brown can square high tobacco duties with his policy of fair taxation is to make it as easy as possible for smokers, especially low-income smokers, to quit. To do this properly, we think sixty million pounds from tobacco taxes should be put into the NHS specifically for helping smokers to quit.” [3]

CliveBates, Director of ASH said: “Smuggling is clearly a serious problem, but it is a law and order issue and we are looking for a comprehensive package with serious resources devoted to cracking the organised smuggling gangs and the van-trade.  The Chancellor must stick with the outstandingly successful policy of high tobacco taxes and never capitulate to organised crime and the self-serving arguments of the tobacco industry, whose main interest is to see taxes fall and smoking increase.” [4]

[1] Available as a pdf here.
[2] Pre-budget report 9 November 1999
[3] on No Smoking Day (8 March) the Department of Health reduced the budget for smoking cessation from £20m to £16m for 2000-01 ­ we believe it shouldincrease over time to £80 million per year
[4] according to the General Household Survey smoking rates have fallen 1996(28%) and 1998 (27%)


Contact Clive Bates, ASH (0207) 739 5902

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