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Press Release

Tobacco tax rises welcomed by ASH and SPECTRUM but concerns raised

15 Mar 2023

Tobacco tax rises welcomed by ASH and the SPECTRUM public health research consortium but concerns raised about

  • failure to reinstate funding to help smokers to quit and prevent youth uptake; and
  • lack of action on disposable vapes

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and the SPECTRUM public health research consortium welcomed today’s increase in tobacco taxes of 2% above inflation(RPI) for cigarettes. For this year that will mean 95 pence increase on a pack of 20 cigarettes. [1] [2] Reducing the affordability of tobacco is recognised to be the most effective way of reducing smoking prevalence and the higher the escalator above inflation, the greater the impact it has and the greater the potential to save lives. [3]

However, we are disappointed that the Chancellor did not accept our recommendation [4] to change from RPI to average earnings as the foundation for the tobacco tax escalator. RPI is not a good measure of affordability particularly at the current time when wages are not keeping pace with inflation.

Funding to deliver a smokefree 2030

There is also disappointment at the failure to reinstate funding for tobacco control in the public health budget announced yesterday. The government has committed to respond to the Khan review on making smoking obsolete [5] and publish its plans to deliver a smokefree 2030 in ‘coming weeks’.[6] However, without an ambitious new strategy and the additional funding recommended by Khan of £125 million a year Cancer Research UK has estimated that on current trends the government won’t achieve its smokefree 2030 ambition [7] until 2039.[8]

That is why ASH and SPECTRUM called on the government to introduce a ‘polluter pays levy on tobacco transnationals which could raise more than five times the amount called for by Khan. The Government is not proceeding with a levy, so it needs to find the funding needed from government coffers. The £125 million a year recommended by Khan is only 1% of the £11 billion smokers paid HM Treasury in 2022 (excise taxes come out of the pockets of smokers not the tobacco industry). Between 2015/16 and 2022/3 while tobacco taxes increased significantly, funding for public health was cut in real terms by 24% with the biggest cuts falling on smoking cessation services and tobacco control which declined by 41%. [8] The public health grant announced yesterday did not even match inflation, meaning a further real terms cut in funding this year and next. [10]

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of health charity ASH, said:
“Further cuts in funding for public health and tobacco control this year and next is the falsest of false economies. Analysis by Landman Economics for ASH shows that investing £125 million a year to deliver the government’s smokefree 2030 ambition, which is just 1% of the money raised by tobacco taxes, would provide a net benefit to public finances of £5.3 billion by 2030. This amounts to a return on investment for public finances of 5 to 1.”

Hand Rolled Tobacco (HRT) and Minimum Excise Tax (MET)

ASH and SPECTRUM welcomed the uprating of MET on cigarettes. The new MET will be £7.87 (previously £6.95) for a pack of 20. [1] [2] Increasing the MET raises the price of the cheapest cigarettes and discourages smokers switching to cheaper brands instead of quitting smoking altogether. This effectively means the lowest price for a pack of 20 cigarettes will be £11.97 from 6pm today. [1] [2]

The higher increase of 6% above RPI for hand-rolled tobacco was also welcomed. The increase will mean an extra £1.75 on a 30g pouch of tobacco from 6pm today.[1] [2] However, ASH urged the government to commit to the additional increase in tax on handrolled tobacco for the duration of this Parliament.

Dr JR Branston, Associate Professor, University of Bath and SPECTRUM consortium said:
“The additional increase to handrolled tobacco taxation is welcome, but the continued tax gap on handrolled tobacco has kept smokers smoking who might otherwise quit. Thousands of smokers have switched to cheaper hand rolled tobacco in recent years The Government needs to commit to an annual additional increase on handrolled, until the tax on handrolled tobacco is equivalent to that for factory made cigarettes.”

Disposable vapes

ASH and SPECTRUM also urged the government to introduce an excise tax on single use (disposable) vapes to immediately reduce the affordability of these products, which are the most popular vapes with children and can currently be bought for under a fiver. [4]

Adding an excise tax of £4 per disposable vape could bring the price up to the same level as the cheapest re-usable vapes, while still less expensive than cigarettes, which are the most harmful product. This would make disposable vapes significantly less affordable for children, and discourage the use of these environmentally damaging products by adults.

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of health charity ASH, said:
“Children who vape mainly use cheap disposables, which can be bought for under a fiver. They could easily have been made less affordable in the Budget with the introduction of a specific tax for single use disposable vapes, and at the very least we hoped the Chancellor would announce that he would consult on this. A tax of around £4 on disposables could have raised the price to the same as that of reusable vapes while still cheaper than smoking, which is far more harmful than vaping both for children and adults. In one simple step this would have reduced both child vaping and the vast quantities of single use vapes being thrown into landfill.”


Notes and Links:

Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. ASH receives funding for its programme of work from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation, and provides the secretariat to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health. For more information see:

SPECTRUM is a public health research consortium of academics from 10 UK universities and partner organisations funded by the UK Prevention Research Partnership. For more information see:

ASH staff are available for interview. For more information send an email to or ring Deborah Arnott on 07976 935 987


[1] HM Treasury and The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, Budget 2023. Available from:

[2] HMRC Tobacco Duty Product Rates. Available from:

[3] Chaloupka F, Yurekli A, Fong G. Tobacco taxes as a tobacco control strategy. Tobacco Control 2012; 21:172-180.

[4] ASH and SPECTRUM Budget Representation 1st
February 2023. Available from:;

[5] Independent report. The Khan review: making smoking obsolete. Office for Health Improvement and Disparities. 9 June 2022.

[6] Department of Health and Social Care and Cabinet Office. Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s. 2019.

[7] Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Neil O’Brien MP,.Westminster Hall. Volume 729: debated on Thursday 9 March 2023. Hansard

[8] Cancer Research UK. Smoking prevalence projections for England based on data to 2021. December 2022.

[9] Health Foundation analysis available from

[10] Local Authority Public Health Update. Statement made on 14 March 2023. UIN HCWS633.