Questions in Parliament

Posted 27th October 2020 by Dave Cross
Labour’s Dan Jarvis wondered about Smokefree England progress and Big Tobacco levies. Baroness Kennedy pondered on the impact of COVID-19 on smoking rates, and Labour’s Alex Sobel how vaping has affected COVID-19 symptoms.

Barnsley Central’s Dan Jarvis asked the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care what achievements the Government has made on its ambition of attaining a smokefree England in 2030. He also asked what financial support was being targeted at regional and local government to help them achieve the 2030 target, and if any assessments of using a special tax on the tobacco industry to support this had been carried out.

Jo Churchill, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department of Health and Social Care told him: “Smoking rates are the lowest on record at 13.9% for England and we are not complacent. We laid out our ambition to make England smokefree by 2030 in our Prevention Green Paper, ‘Advancing Our Health: Prevention in the 2020s’ consultation last year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the response to this consultation has been put on hold.

The response and plans for achieving our smokefree objectives will be published at a later date. Decisions on the future funding of local government health improvement functions will be taken as part of the Spending Review.

The Department has not made an assessment of introducing a levy on tobacco industry profits. However, HM Treasury has previously carried out a consultation and published its response in September 2015.” [Linked below]

Moving across to the other place [link], Baroness Kennedy of Cradley wanted to understand what assessment Her Majesty's Government have made of English population smoking rates during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lord Bethell, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Department of Health and Social Care in The House of Lords informed her: “Public Health England has produced an online monitoring tool ‘Wider Impacts of COVID on Health’ which is designed to allow users to explore the indirect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the population's health and wellbeing.

“The tool presents a range of health and wellbeing metrics, including bringing together several indicators on smoking and alcohol consumption in England over the pandemic period. Data from PHE’s latest summary on the Wider impacts of COVID-19 on health published 24 September 2020 suggest considerable volatility in smoking behaviours.”

Alex Sobel, Shadow Minister for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, was also interested in COVID-19, but his was a concern that vaping could have a potential effect on the transmission rates of the virus.

Jo Churchill was clear in her response: “There is currently no evidence that COVID-19 is more likely to be transmitted via passive exposure to cigarette smoke or e-cigarette vapour.

However,” she continued, “being in close proximity to anyone with an active infection would carry a risk of infection regardless of whether they are smoking or vaping.”



  • Tobacco levy: response to the consultation – [link]

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, motorbikes, and dog walker