Time to end ‘tobacco epidemic’, government urged

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A report by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Smoking and Health has called on the government to make smoking ‘obsolete’ by 2030.

ASH chief executive Deborah Arnott
ASH chief executive Deborah Arnott

It wants to see a consultation on raising the age limit for tobacco sales to 21 and funding for tobacco control initiatives to come from the industry itself through a ‘polluter pays’ principle. Targeted investment is also needed to help people quit in the regions and communities where smoking has the most impact, it states, such as people in manual jobs or social housing as well as pregnant women.

Half of the difference in life expectancy between society’s richest and poorest is the result of smoking, the document points out, adding that ‘for every smoker who dies another thirty are suffering serious-smoking related diseases’. A recent report found that on average smokers will need care support for everyday tasks ten years earlier than people who’ve never smoked. ‘Although in 2020 COVID-19 killed around 80,000 people prematurely in the UK, smoking kills on the same scale every year, and will go on doing so for many years to come unless we make smoking obsolete,’ the report states. ‘We are taking the necessary steps to end the coronavirus pandemic; we must do the same for smoking.’

The document wants to the see the UK take its place as a ‘global leader in tobacco control’, and revise its targets if not on track to be smoke-free by 2030. Legislation should also be introduced to put health warnings on individual cigarettes, it adds.

‘Our report sets out measures which will put us on track to achieve the government’s ambition to end smoking by 2030, but they can’t be delivered without funding,’ said APPG chair Bob Blackman MP. ‘Tobacco manufacturers make extreme profits selling highly addictive, lethal products, while government coffers are bare because of COVID-19. The manufacturers have the money – they should be made to pay to end the epidemic.’

‘We all applauded when the government announced its ambition for a smokefree 2030,’ added ASH chief executive Deborah Arnott. ‘But that was two years ago, the time has now come to deliver.’

Delivering a smokefree 2030: The All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health recommendations for the tobacco control plan 2021 here