Action on Smoking and Health

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ASH comment on Budget: Missed opportunity

29 October 2018

ASH comment on Budget: Missed opportunity


Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) is pleased to see that the minimum excise tax (MET) on cigarettes has been uprated from £5.60 to £5.88 in the Budget today. [1] Increasing the MET raises the price of the cheapest cigarettes and discourages smokers switching to cheaper brands instead of quitting smoking altogether (the MET will apply to any cigarettes sold at or below £7.96, previously it was those sold below £7.63).


However, ASH is disappointed that the Chancellor has not increased the annual tobacco tax escalator from 2% to 5% above inflation (RPI) as recommended by ASH and the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies in its submission to the Chancellor.[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. [3]


Furthermore the additional tax applied to handrolled tobacco (3% above inflation for handrolled compared to 2% for factory made) still leaves taxes on handrolled considerably lower. While the minimum tax on a pack of 20 factory made cigarettes is now £5.88 (or about 29 pence per cigarette), tax on handrolled is still less than half this, at £2.35 for twenty roll-your-own cigarettes (this is equivalent to just under 12 pence per cigarette, using the average weight per handrolled cigarette of 0.5 grams).[4]


Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH, said:


ASH is disappointed that the government has wasted a golden opportunity for a win-win on public health and government revenues in today’s Budget. If they’d simultaneously increased the tobacco tax escalator, and significantly reduced the tax differential between manufactured cigarettes and handrolled tobacco they would have discouraged smoking while at the same time increasing the total tax take.” 


ASH is also disappointed that the Government has not taken up the recommendation that a levy be placed on the tobacco transnationals to support activity to reduce smoking prevalence, based on their sales of combustible products in the UK. [2] The UK as a party to the WHO FCTC, the international tobacco treaty, is legally prohibited from allowing any industry involvement in the setting and implementing of its public health policy and the proposal requires this to be implemented through legislation and to be completely independent from the industry.[5] Given the recent advertising campaign and “offers” of help from PMI it is clear the industry has the money to pay for such a scheme. [6]




Notes and Links:


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


ASH receives funding for its programme of work from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.


ASH staff are available for interview and have an ISDN line. For more information send an email to or ring 020 7404 0242. Out of hours contact Deborah Arnott (Chief Executive, ASH) on 07976 935 987 or Hazel Cheeseman (Director of Policy, ASH) on 07754 358 593.




[1] HM Treasury and The Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP, Budget 2018. Available from:


[2] ASH UKCTAS Budget submission endorsed by 19 other health organisations. Available from:


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


[4] J Robert Branston, Ann McNeill, Anna Gilmore, Rosemary Hiscock, Timea R Partos (2018, forthcoming), “Keeping smoking affordable in higher tax environments via smoking thinner Roll-Your-Own cigarettes: Findings from the International Tobacco Control Four-Country Survey 2006-15”, forthcoming in Drug and Alcohol Dependence


[5] WHO FCTC Article 5.3 guidelines Available from:,-article-8,-article-11-and-article-13


[6] PMI ‘Hold My Light’ Campaign launched on Monday 22October see:

ASH Daily News for 3 September 2018


  • Smokefree zones to be introduced near Barnsley primary schools
  • Cardiff shisha bars prosecuted for public health offences


  • Australia: Cigarettes hit $40 AUD a pack
  • United Arab Emirates considering lifting ban on e-cigarettes


Smokefree zones to be introduced near Barnsley primary schools

Smokefree zones are set to be introduced outside 80 primary schools in Barnsley. The move is an extension of a council scheme which has already been implemented in the town. Each of the schools will be given signs, letters to send to parents and “tool kits” to help staff set up the zones around the premises. Kaye Mann, senior health improvement officer, said: “The aim is to make smoking invisible to children.”

Source: BBC News, 2 September 2018

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Cardiff shisha bars prosecuted for public health offences

Two Cardiff shisha bars have been prosecuted for public health offences following council investigations. Concerns around the safety of shisha bars were raised in a council meeting in March and since then the authority has been inspecting premises across the city.

There were fears that many young people are smoking the shisha pipes, which contain tobacco, without knowing the health risks. Under the law, shisha pipes can be smoked in the open air or in structures where at least 50% of the walls are permanently open. It is not allowed within substantially or fully enclosed public spaces.

A council spokesman said: “The council is currently inspecting premises where shisha smoking takes place in the city and has a range of powers that can be used to ensure that these businesses are complying with all relevant legislation.”

Source: Wales Online, 31 August 2018

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Australia: Cigarettes hit $40 AUD a pack

A tax increase of 12.5% has pushed up the price of a cigarette pack to almost $40 AUD (over £22). The Australian Government announced back in May 2016 that it would implement annual increases in tobacco excise of 12.5% up to and including 2020.

The tax rise came into force on Saturday 1st September, the same day as in 2017 and 2016. It means that Australia now has the most expensive cigarettes in the world. The smoking rate among adults in Australia was 12.8% in 2016.

Source: Mail on Sunday, 1 September 2018

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United Arab Emirates considering lifting ban on e-cigarettes

The UAE could be set to lift its ban on e-cigarettes and heat not burn products. Authorities have begun a preliminary project to assess whether electronic nicotine devices should be allowed to be used legally in the country. Currently, e-cigarettes are banned in the Emirates due to concerns over their impact on user health.

But that stance could be softening, with the Government consumer watchdog – the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology now reviewing data on alternative tobacco products, with the ban potentially being lifted in the future.

Source: The National UAE, 3 September 2018

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ASH Daily News for 6 August 2018


  • London: Vape, don’t smoke, warn fire brigade after fire at flat
  • Scotland: The reality of the prison smoking ban
  • Opinion: A tax on vaping would lead to more smoking deaths
  • Cigarettes could cost £20 in 2020
  • Heatwave sees golf courses ban smoking while playing


  • US: Vaping draws strong support from robots
  • US: Smoking ban in public housing might make quitting easier


London: Vape, don’t smoke, warn fire brigade after fire at flat

A “carelessly” discarded cigarette may have started a blaze that destroyed a flat in Finsbury Park. Fire investigators believe a bed ignited when smoking materials, such as a cigarette or match, were carelessly disposed of. No one was injured in the fire.

A London Fire Brigade spokesman said: “We would rather people didn’t smoke at all but if they do, vaping is a safer option. If you do choose to smoke cigarettes, it is absolutely vital you ensure your cigarette is completely out when you’ve finished smoking it. If you don’t, you risk causing a fire which could not only destroy your home, but also cost you your life.”

Source: Islington Tribune, 3 August 2018

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Scotland: The reality of the prison smoking ban

Smoking will be banned in all Scottish prisons on the 30th of November 2018. Tobacco products will no longer be sold to prisoners and they will be prohibited from smoking in either the buildings or the grounds. The Scottish Government says the ban is a further step towards its goal of creating a “tobacco-free generation” by 2034, and that it will improve the air quality for prisoners and the working conditions of wardens.

Phil Fairlie, chairman of the Prison Officers’ Association Scotland, welcomed the positive contribution the ban could make towards a healthy workplace. However he also said, “To suddenly…remove one of the most highly addictive substances out there, to do that without any proper consideration or thought as to how you do that without providing smoking cessation programmes and the opportunity to come off cigarettes, could simply add to what is already a very difficult working environment for the staff, so it needs to be managed carefully.”

Source: The Herald, 5 August 2018

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Opinion: A tax on vaping would lead to more smoking deaths

Daniel Pryor, Head of Programmes at the Adam Smith Institute, which has accepted money from the tobacco industry, discusses rumours of tax on e-cigarettes.

“If rumours are to be believed, the Treasury is planning to raise money for the NHS by giving people cancer. This would be the effect of a tax on vaping: raising the cost of switching from cigarettes to a popular alternative that is at least 95% safer, according to Public Health England.

If you tax something, you get less of it and people stick to alternatives. In this case, it will be more people continuing to smoke. Funding the NHS by taxing vaping is like funding the fire service by taxing smoke alarms. The government is putting lives at risk for a pittance.”

See also:
The Times, Chancellor warned off duty on vaping
Talking Retail, Vaping industry hits back at reports of new tax on e-cigs
The Sun, Taxing e-cigarettes makes ‘no sense’ as they help people quit smoking, experts warn
Conservative Home, A vaping tax would kill people

Source: The Times, 6th August 2018

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Cigarettes could cost £20 in 2020

Cigarettes could double in price to £20 a packet in 2020. A 100% price increase to cigarettes has been mooted by health experts in an attempt to help smokers quit.

These experts say current prices around £10 for 20 cigarettes is not high enough to force people to quit. They claim the addiction is still “too affordable”, and that the issue is not just with cigarettes, but roll-ups too.

Dr Rob Branston, from University of Bath, said: “Smokers can currently offset tax rises by adjusting their smoking behaviour so they don’t get a strong enough push to quit the deadly habit. Larger tax rises are needed to make smokers realise it is unaffordable. We would suggest that the UK government follow the lead of the Australian government. They have announced large yearly price rises up to 2020 which will result in the price in the shops exceeding the equivalent of £20 a packet.”

See also:
Edinburgh evening news, Experts call for cigarette prices to rise to £20 by 2020 to deter smokers
This is Lancashire, Call for larger tax rises to ‘make smoking unaffordable’

Source: Daily Star, 4 August 2018

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Heatwave sees golf courses ban smoking while playing

Hundreds of golf clubs have banned smoking in an “unprecedented” move to reduce the risk of fires starting on dried out courses. Sustained hot weather has prompted them to tell golfers they can no longer light up while playing.

The Golf Club Managers Association (GCMA) found 60% of clubs in the UK have temporarily banned smoking because of the heatwave conditions this summer. They said courses should “urgently consider the measure”. Many golfers who smoke will lay cigarettes down on the grass to keep their hands free while playing shots, increasing the potential risk for fires starting.

Source: 2018 BBC News, 4 August 2018

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US: Vaping draws strong support from robots

Social media accounts run by internet robots may be driving much of the discussion around the health threats posed by e-cigarettes, according to a study led by San Diego State University researchers, who also found that most of the automated messages were positive toward vaping.

More than 70% of the tweets analysed in the study appeared to have been put out by robots, whose use to influence public opinion and sell products while posing as real people is coming under increased scrutiny.

The discovery of the apparent robot promotion of vaping was unexpected. The team originally set out to use Twitter data to study the use and perceptions of e-cigarettes in the United States and to understand characteristics of users discussing e-cigarettes.

Source: MedicalXpress, 6 August 2018

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US: Smoking ban in public housing might make quitting easier

A new US ban on smoking in public housing may make it easier for low-income smokers to quit, a new study suggests. Last week, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) implemented a ban on cigarettes, cigars, and pipes inside apartments, common areas and outdoor spaces within 25 feet of public housing properties. This ban doesn’t cover e-cigarettes.

While the primary goal of the ban is to improve indoor air quality and reduce residents’ exposure to secondhand smoke, new research suggests it may also help low-income smokers be more successful at quitting. People with smokefree homes were 60% more likely to quit smoking for at least 30 days than people without this prohibition, the study also found. However, the prevalence of smokefree homes was 33% lower among low-income people than among more affluent individuals.

See also:
PLOS 1, Income disparities in smoking cessation and the diffusion of smoke-free homes among U.S. smokers: Results from two longitudinal surveys

Source: Reuters, 3 August 2018

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ASH Daily News for 2 August 2018


  • Claims that e-cigarettes could be taxed to raise £20 billion for NHS
  • Vype e-cigarettes recalled over fire safety fears
  • Sheffield: Potential smoking ban at bus and tram stops
  • London: Smoking rates declining in Southwark
  • What happens when you quit cigarettes?


  • US: New wearable sensor technology may help quit smoking
  • US: Modest exercise can curb weight gain after quitting smoking


Claims that e-cigarettes could be taxed to raise £20 billion for NHS

Vaping could be taxed in an attempt by the Treasury to fund the extra £20 billion pledged to the NHS. It is reported that a Whitehall source believes vapers may see a tax increase above VAT at the next budget.

Users typically spend around £275 a year on vaping fluid. This means a five per cent tax would cost them £13.75 a year, raising almost £40 million.

See also:
Express, Vape tax intended to raise extra £40 million set to harm UK’s 2.9 million vapers
Daily Mail, E-cigarettes could be taxed for the first time as Treasury looks to raise £20 billion promised to the NHS

Source: The Sun, 1st August 2018

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Vype e-cigarettes recalled over fire safety fears

A safety notice has been issued after some consumers have reported problems with Vype eTank Pro devices, owned by British American Tobacco. The issue relates to the potential for the battery in the e-cigarettes to short circuit, which may pose a fire risk. Vype is therefore asking customers who purchased the device or its standalone battery to return the product, so it can be replaced.

See also:  Daily Mail, Vype e-cigarettes sold at Sainsbury’s have been urgently recalled

Source: The Sun, 1st August 2018

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Sheffield: Potential smoking ban at bus and tram stops

Smokers in Sheffield could be stopped from smoking at bus and tram stops, after the council confirmed it was looking at introducing smokefree shelters across the city. Moving forward, members of the public could be asked to give their views on smokefree bus and tram shelters as well as smokefree school gates and public family events.

“We will do further consultation for any public space. It’s never a ban, it’s a smokefree ask,” said Sarah Hepworth, Health Improvement Principal.

Greg Fell, Director of Public Health at Sheffield City Council said “Enforceability is a very important thing. We’re not going to send police marching up and down the moor trying to take people’s cigarettes from them, if we head towards that [further smokefree places] we have to do it with the support of the people of Sheffield.”

Source: Yorkshire Post, 1st August 2018

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London: Smoking rates declining in Southwark

Southwark’s labourers, cleaners and hospitality staff appear to be switching smoking for e-cigarettes, according to statistics.

The percentage of smokers in routine and manual occupations has dropped from more than 25% in 2015, to 18.5% in 2016 – below the London average of 25%, and the country-wide rate of 27%, according to Southwark Council documents. Smoking prevalence across the borough is also reducing, with 15.3% of residents smoking in 2016, compared to 15.9% in 2015.

However, Southwark Council’s director of health and wellbeing, Kevin Fenton, said the sharp decline in smokers in routine and manual jobs could not be confirmed as a trend until next year’s data becomes available. Speaking to the council’s health and wellbeing board, he said: “One of the things you learn is that we never look up one year’s data and then celebrate, so we are waiting and we are looking forward to the data from 2017 to confirm the trend.”

The 2017 data is yet to be included in this analysis but can be accessed here.

Source: News Shopper, 1st August 2018

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What happens when you quit cigarettes?

Smoking increases the risk of developing heart disease, stroke and lung cancer and harms nearly every organ of the body. Indeed, about 90,000 people die every year in the UK because of their smoking habit.

According to the NHS, the positive health effects begin just 20 minutes after quitting, since the pulse rate returns to normal. Then, after eight hours, nicotine and carbon monoxide levels in blood reduce by more than half, and oxygen levels return to normal. After 12 hours, the total amount of carbon monoxide in the body returns to normal, and the heart doesn’t have to pump so hard to push oxygen around the body. Three days into quitting it’s significantly easier to breathe, and patients have more energy.

Over the next three months, circulation throughout the body improves and becomes more efficient. The lungs become stronger and clearer, and the risk of heart attack has been reduced. Indeed, after one full year, the risk of heart disease is about half compared with a person that’s still smoking, and ten years later, the chances of developing lung cancer are about half that of a smoker. Another five years on, heart attack risk is the same as someone that’s never smoked a single cigarette.

Source: Express, 1st August 2018

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US: New wearable sensor technology may help quit smoking

Using wearable sensor technology, researchers have developed an automatic alert system that may help people to quit smoking by sending video messages. The smartphone app automatically texts 20 to 120-second video messages to smokers when sensors detect specific arm and body motions associated with smoking.

According to the researchers, the mobile alert system may be the first that combines an existing online platform with mindfulness training and a personalised plan for quitting smoking. It also combines a personalised text-messaging service that reminds the user of either their own plan to quit, or sends video messages that stress the health and financial benefits of quitting.

See also:
Science Direct, Are you smoking? Automatic alert system helping people keep away from cigarettes

Source: The Asian Independent, 2nd August 2018

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US: Modest exercise can curb weight gain after quitting smoking

A new study suggests that even a modest amount of weekly exercise can minimise weight gain after quitting smoking. Nearly 7 of 10 US adult smokers say they want to quit, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, but the fear of gaining weight discourages some from doing so. For three years, the study team tracked 4,717 female smokers, ages 50 to 70, who were participating in the long-term Women’s Health Initiative study. The 2,282 women who quit smoking gained an overall average of 3.5 kilograms (7.72 lb).

“We found even a little bit of physical activity minimised weight gain after women stopped smoking,” study leader Juhua Luo of the School of Public Health at Indiana University in Bloomington told Reuters Health. They found that even walking for a weekly total of about 90 minutes at three miles per hour was enough to minimise weight gain after smoking cessation. The best results were seen when women engaged in 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week.

See also:
Menopause, Physical activity and weight gain after smoking cessation in postmenopausal women

Source: Reuters, 1st August 2018

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ASH Briefing: Health inequalities and smoking

This briefing explains why smoking is a major contributory factor and what can be done to reduce health inequalities caused by smoking. It examines the relationship between smoking and socio-economic status, and certain social groups such as people with mental health conditions, prisoners, looked-after children and ethnic minorities.

ASH Briefing: Health inequalities and smoking

MPs call on Chancellor to increase tobacco taxes to fund reduction in smoking prevalence

MPs call on Chancellor to increase tobacco taxes to fund reduction in smoking prevalenceASH_978.pdf