The government has committed to developing a new tobacco control plan for 2016 and beyond as its previous strategy ‘Healthy Lives, Healthy People’ comes to an end.
Health minister Jane Ellison announced her intention to develop a new strategy following the launch, in Parliament, of a controversial new report by anti smoking charity ASH earlier this week.
One of the key recommendations in ASH’s Smoking Still Kills report is the development of a new tobacco strategy.
The government’s old strategy, which included a pledge to consider banning tobacco displays in shops, was launched in 2011 and runs until the end of 2015.
The ASH report also calls on the government to implement a number of new measures including a new annual levy on tobacco companies to help fund Stop Smoking Services.
Other proposals include an increase in the tax escalator on tobacco products from 2% to 5% above the level of inflation and for the tax differential between manufactured and hand-rolled cigarettes to be scrapped.
It also seeks the creation of a licensing scheme for tobacco retailers.
“The introduction of such a scheme would enable local authorities to build more proactive relationships with retailers, raising awareness of the law and promoting good practice,” the report said.
“It would also make it much easier for local authorities to stop retailers from selling tobacco if they find evidence of underage or illicit sales on the premises,” it added.
Speaking following the launch of the new ASH report, public health minister Jane Ellison said: “We have taken bold steps to help protect the public. We will read this report with interest as we develop our new tobacco strategy.”
Retailers responded bitterly to the launch of the ASH report which comes just weeks after a tobacco display ban was implemented in stores across the UK.
Suleman Khonat, national spokesperson for the Tobacco Retailers’ Alliance said: “Government red tape is already strangling many small businesses like mine. On top of this, it seems that ASH is intent on reducing smoking rates - whatever the actual evidence says - and the cost to small shops and communities.
“Tobacco contributes about a third of a typical small shops’ turnover and generates substantial footfall so it’s crucial to many livelihoods.
“This is a legal product and adults understand the risks. It’s time that the government said enough is enough and that ASH’s law of diminishing returns and lack of evidence-based approach to smoking control comes under proper scrutiny.”
The Tobacco Manufacturers Association also hit out at the ASH proposals. Giles Roca, director general said:
“This report shows just how draconian and self-serving ASH’s agenda has become. Measures such as a levy on tobacco companies are clearly not evidence based but are simply a case of an anti-smoking professional lobby group trying to find new ways to attack smokers and a legitimate industry. These proposals would cost the Treasury billions over the next parliament and would simply provide government funding for this group to continue lobbying the government.
“All this comes on top of the tobacco display ban which has only recently been introduced in small shops, whilst the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive (which bans packs of under 20 cigarettes, menthol cigarettes and increases health warnings to 65% of the pack) and plain packaging of tobacco have yet to be implemented, let alone evaluated.
“This continued drive to over-regulate the UK tobacco market will simply create greater opportunities for organised crime groups involved in smuggling on a massive scale.”