February 9, 2023
Local authorities from across England have called on the government to bring forward a new Tobacco Control Plan for England and to introduce a ‘polluter pays’ levy on tobacco manufacturers.
The joint letter to Health and Social Care Secreatry Steve Barclay, coordinated by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and Cancer Research UK, highlights the significant financial pressure smoking places on local councils and the NHS, with an estimated £3.6 billion spent on smoking-related health and social care in England every year.
This is in addition to £13.2 billion each year in lost economic productivity resulting from premature death and disability caused by smoking.
The letter argues that bold national action to reduce smoking rates would help to ease the pressure on household budgets and put money back into the pockets of struggling families. The average smoker who quits successfully will see their disposable income rise by around £2,450 a year, it noted.
The move follows a new report from Cancer Research UK, which warns that the UK government is almost a decade behind achieving its target for England to be smokefree by 2030.
“Local councils have led the way in supporting people to quit smoking over the last decade and we are determined to play our part in making smokefree 2030 a reality. But we need the government to play its part and publish an ambitious new Tobacco Control Plan for England with the measures needed to end smoking,” Cllr David Fothergill, chair of the Local Government Association Community Wellbeing Board, said.
“This should include a ‘polluter pays’ levy to make the tobacco companies pay to fix the damage they have caused by addicting generations of people to their lethal products.”
As it stands, there is currently no Tobacco Control Plan for England; the previous plan expired at the end of 2022 and the status of its replacement is unclear.
A ‘polluter pays’ levy on tobacco manufacturers would raise an estimated £700 million per year which could be used to fund measures to help people who smoke to quit, the letter added.