Politics & Campaigns

Smoke-free England Parliamentary Debate

Politicians in the House of Commons have conducted a debate about the government’s attempt to achieve smoke-free status in England by 2030

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Politicians in the House of Commons have conducted a debate about the Government’s attempt to achieve smoke-free status in England by 2030. Charles Walker MP opened the proceedings by reading from the Government document “Towards a smoke-free generation”.

Over 200 deaths every day are still caused by smoking…Smoking rates have remained stubbornly higher amongst those in our society who already suffer from poorer health and other disadvantages. Smoking rates are almost three times higher amongst the lowest earners,” Walker began.

Then he explained to the House what the Government’s ambition is: “When we talk about a smoke-free 2030, we are actually talking about 5% or less of the adult population smoking.”

With around 14% of the adult population currently smoking, it will be a hard task to produce a drop to 5% without a shift in political attitude towards tobacco-free nicotine products.

Walker recognises this: “Cancer Research UK is not optimistic about the 2030 date, which will not come as a surprise to anyone here. Its best guess is that 2037 is when we will achieve 5% or less, and I am afraid the general view is that 2037 now looks optimistic.”

Failure to achieve this target comes at huge cost.

To put it in context, what is 200 deaths a day? That is 75,000 deaths a year and, on top of that, 500,000 admissions to hospital every year for smoking-related illnesses. Over 10 years, 750,000 people will die from smoking. That is approximately the population of Birmingham every 10 years, and 5 million people will be admitted to hospital,” Walker continued.

Huge disparities exist between North and South, rich and poor.

In response to this, Walker made a commitment: ““Despite the availability of effective medicines and treatments to support quit attempts, the majority of smokers choose to quit unassisted, by going ‘cold turkey’. This has proved to be the least effective method…The best thing a smoker can do for their health is to quit smoking. However, the evidence is increasingly clear that e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful to health than smoking tobacco. The Government will seek to support consumers in stopping smoking and adopting the use of less harmful nicotine products.”

Opposition Whip Mary Glindon welcomed the statement but pressed the Government to “ensure that medical professionals have access to the latest evidence on e-cigarettes and are encouraged to signpost patients to appropriate guidance about harm reduction”.

Charles Walker appeared to signal a new approach to reduced-harm products. He acknowledged the benefits of switching to vaping, but also raised the prospect of promoting nicotine pouches, heat-not-burn products, and snus.

Before we cast these alternatives aside, let us remember that they reduce the harm caused to the user. There is nothing more harmful than smoking burnt, lit, combustible tobacco—nothing,” he added.


Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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