Government targets further reduction in smoking rates
Tuesday, July 18, 2017 at 10:56
Simon Clark

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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