This report presents findings from the eighth annual ASH/CRUK survey of tobacco control leads in local authorities in England. It explores both the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and current efforts to reduce the inequalities that define the smoking epidemic in England.
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the profound disparities that shape the experience of individuals and communities in twenty-first century England, disparities that have recently become the focus of the UK Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda. This agenda is not new: it has long been central to the work of tobacco control professionals. In English local authorities, tobacco control leads and their colleagues are well aware that smoking remains the single biggest driver of health inequalities in their communities. Despite the remarkable decline in smoking in the population as a whole, smoking prevalence remains stubbornly high in deprived and disadvantaged groups.
Over the past eight years, local efforts to tackle smoking have diversified. Despite long-term cuts in public health funding and the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic, most local authorities continue to invest in stop smoking services and wider tobacco control work, though a few have cut services altogether. As this report reveals, many local authorities have been remarkably resourceful and innovative in responding to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and in reaching out to meet the diverse needs of their local smokers.