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« Media coverage of the Tobacco Control Plan announcement | Main | Stubbed out: Scotland's answer to everything »

Government targets further reduction in smoking rates

The Government has published its new Tobacco Control Plan.

The plan, announced in a fairly low key manner this morning, is notable for its lack of detail.

No mention, for example, of a tobacco levy or retailer licensing or bans on smoking in outdoor areas or private vehicles sans children.

It does however set targets including a further reduction in smoking rates, from 15.5 per cent down to 12 per cent by 2022.

Targets make me nervous, hence our response:

Simon Clark, director of the smoker's group Forest, said:

"Setting targets encourages punitive measures. The best tobacco control plan puts education and choice ahead of prohibition and coercion."

Commenting on the commitment to extend smoking bans to all hospitals, mental health facilities and prisons, he added:

"In the 21st century tobacco control policies should focus on harm reduction products, not prohibition and other restrictive practises.

"Since the last Tobacco Control Plan was introduced in 2011 almost three million smokers have started vaping, with 1.5 million giving up smoking in favour of e-cigarettes.

"E-cigarettes and other harm reduction products are a game-changer because they offer consumers a pleasurable yet safer alternative to smoking.

"If however adults choose to smoke that is their right and it must be respected. Denormalising or punishing smokers is unacceptable."

Calling on ministers to "stop lecturing" consumers, Clark said:

"The most important stakeholder is the consumer yet they are routinely ignored by government. Ministers should stop lecturing smokers and engage with them."

Calling for a "systematic review" of existing tobacco control policies, including the use of taxpayers' money to fund smoking cessation services, Clark said:

"The Tobacco Control Plan should include a systematic review of the impact of measures such as the display ban and plain packaging.

"It's time too to question the use of public money to fund stop smoking services and other anti-smoking campaigns.

"The government must also grasp the opportunity provided by Brexit to abandon some of the policies included in the EU's Tobacco Products Directive.

"Some measures, including restrictions on the sale and promotion of e-cigarettes, are not only an attack on consumer choice, they are undoubtedly counter-productive."

I'll link to the DH announcement when its online. I'll also post reaction from the likes of ASH and Cancer Research.

Update: Instead of a press release, here's the policy paper, Towards a smoke-free generation: tobacco control plan for England.

Update: Here is ASH's response – ASH Welcomes New Tobacco Control Plan for England: Funding needed for it to succeed.

A direct quote from Deborah Arnott read:

"ASH congratulates Steve Brine for showing his commitment to tobacco control by getting the new Plan published only weeks after taking over as Public Health Minister. The vision of a “smokefree generation” it sets out is a welcome step change in ambition from the last Tobacco Control Plan for England and should be achievable by 2030."

As you would expect there's also some special pleading for money:

"Funding must be found if the Government is to achieve its vision of a “smokefree generation”. The tobacco industry should be made to pay a through a licence fee on the ‘polluter pays’ principle. Tobacco manufacturers are some of the most profitable companies on earth they can easily afford the costs of radical action to drive down smoking rates."

As we all know the tobacco companies wouldn't pay, they would simply pass the cost of a levy (or 'licence fee') on to the consumer, many of whom are already impoverished by punitive taxation on tobacco.

Talk about regressive. And shameless.

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Reader Comments (4)

Well, I'm not overly surprised by the overall tone of the new "plan" - full of self-congratulating, tobacco control bullsh*t bingo soundbites.

It's pretty open ended, leaving the exact methods and strategies down to local authorities. I expect more open space bans, bans in council homes, and even more bullying tactics.

After all, they're only smokers right? No-one cares about them.

Another five years of torture ahead I think.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017 at 13:58 | Unregistered CommenterPaul B

This tobacco control regime once again institutionalizes the persecution of smokers.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017 at 18:35 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

A quick glance through the latest Plan (too late to read it in detail now) certainly reveals it as, in many respects, tellingly vague and generalised, which is a good thing. Maybe, as many on here have said before, this Government have recognised the Law of Diminishing Returns applies here and, quite frankly, have other, more important matters to be spending their time (and money) on right now.

They seem to be throwing a bit more weight onto local regulators – quite whether they mean local Health Authorities or local governments wasn’t immediately clear to me – but that does at least mean that if smokers live in a rabidly anti-smoking area and are lucky enough to live close to an area boundary then they at least have the chance to escape the strictures of their “home” area by hopping over the border to spend their leisure time (and money) in a more tolerant area. A bit like the situation in over in the US, where some States are infinitely more tolerant than others and as a result enjoy quite a lot of revenue that the less-tolerant ones miss out on.

Encouraging, too, to see the definitive words “there is no further legislative change planned.” They can, of course (as we all know), renege on this, as they have so often done in the past (who can forget the Labour party manifesto about the exemption for places which don't serve food, or Cameron’s statement that “we have no intention of re-visiting the smoking ban” - followed by a ban in cars with children, psychiatric hospitals and, increasingly, prisons), but it’s encouraging to see such an unequivocal statement in this direction in black and white. Perhaps, privately, they’ve realised that the smoking ban legislation is actually far less popular than they like to pretend and that, at a time when the public’s opinion of politicians is at an all-time low, local councillors or health workers can shoulder the blame for any further unpopular, intrusive and restrictive regulations!

Sounds like fairly good news for e-cigarettes – looks like the Government has decided to offer a small olive branch to them, which might also be good news for dual users (or even those of us who don’t get on with vaping, but might get along with the new HNB devices). So what if the powers that be think, incorrectly, that we’re using their “approved” gadgets as a “quitting aid?” If they get us through a dull evening in a pub with lousy smoking facilities every now and again, then I guess that’s something

Wednesday, July 19, 2017 at 3:06 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

The only nations that are "smoke free" are the most tyrannical in the world. I would rather be free from oppression than ruin the lives of the next generation of legal age young people who smoke by criminalising them for what free people have done for generations before them. I am sure supporters of Isis will be cheering our health minister puppet of ash.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017 at 12:59 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

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