Politics & Campaigns

DHSC Cancel Culture

The Tobacco Control Plan process has limped along under successive Secretaries of State but has it finally been buried by a government locked in turmoil and controversy?

Share on:
The Tobacco Control Plan was supposed to have been drafted on the back of a fact-finding exercise and the publication of the well-received Khan Report. Constantly shifting sands (and ministers) at The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) have added delay after delay. Now, with Thérèse Coffey in office, it looks as though the entire process has been cancelled and the government is washing its hands of being responsible for reducing tobacco related illness and death.

Thérèse Coffey was appointed Secretary of State for Health and Social Care on 6 September 2022. In just over a month, she has told unhappy nurses they can leave the understaffed profession, been slated for saying she plans to let people buy antibiotics over the counter and launched a bizarre attack on the use of the Oxford comma in official NHS documents. Now it is reported that Coffey plans on throwing the Tobacco Control Plan onto “the ideological bonfire”.

The Tobacco Control Plan was set to bring about a “vaping revolution” and build on the successes the disruptive technology has had in reducing UK smoking rates. Following the Khan Report, a White Paper on health disparities was due to be published back in July. Then came Boris Johnson’s removal from office, a new temporary Secretary of State, and news that it would be delayed until after the Conservatives had run the process to elect a new leader and hold their annual conference.

Leading policy expert Clive Bates emphasised the need for action in July: “England aims to reduce smoking to less than 5% by 2030, but this will need mass switching to smoke-free products as a consumer alternative to smoking, and it must be achieved by consent rather than coercion.”

With the constant delays to the publication of Tobacco Control Plan, voices increasingly warned that the ‘smoke-free’ target was constantly slipping away – now said to be around 7 years behind target. Media and government sources recently confirmed that Thérèse Coffey has no intention of publishing a Tobacco Control Plan at all.

As an MP, Thérèse Coffey has voted:

  • Against restricting smoking
  • To oppose the ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces
  • To oppose the ban on smoking in cars containing children
  • To oppose the ban plain cigarette packaging

The official position is currently to deny that Coffey intends to bin the Tobacco Control Plan. A spokesperson said: “This is inaccurate, and no decisions have been taken. We are currently considering the wide range of recommendations set out in the Khan Review and how best to take these forward. We will set out our next steps for the plan in due course.”

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting commented: “The Conservatives are on an ideological mission to rip up common-sense measures that benefit public health and ease demands on the NHS. The irony is that ditching prevention will end up costing the taxpayer more in the long run.”

Action on Smoking and Health’s Deborah Arnott added: “To ditch the Khan recommendations and for there to be no new tobacco control plan would be an own goal for the government. Smoking has a uniquely devastating impact on health. It causes illness and death on a huge scale, is the leading cause of cancer and costs the NHS £2.4bn every year to treat. Ministers should bring forward detailed plans to tackle this scourge on society as a matter of urgency.”

Professor Robert West said: “The public overwhelmingly supports government actions to tackle smoking. Coffey would be directly to blame for thousands of preventable deaths, huge damage to the economy and untold suffering.”

Lord Chris Rennard added: “This would be major victory for the big tobacco lobbyists (disguised as think tanks) and a major blow to public health and the NHS which has to cope with the ill health consequences of smoking tobacco.  50% of smokers die because of their habit.”

Alcohol policy modeller Colin Angus stated: “Abandoning the obesity strategy, the white paper on health inequalities and now the smoking action plan. A truly great time to work in or care about public health in this fine nation of ours.”

Dr Suzi Gage, the author of Say Why To Drugs, lamented the U-turning on anti-smoking legislation, “and yet proposing to make cannabis a Class A drug. If you're going full bonfire of the nanny state at least be consistent!”

The reason for the shift in focus appears to be linked to tobacco industry influence as today, Monday 17 October, the media is reporting that Prime Minister Liz Truss's chief of staff Mark Fullbrook “recuses himself from government smoking strategy due to 'Big Tobacco' links”, having previously worked as a tobacco industry lobbyist.

In light of this, Labour's Wes Streeting has demanded to know what health secretary Thérèse Coffey’s links to the tobacco industry are.

With the new Chancellor’s junking of the new administration’s entire political platform today, some will wonder if Thérèse Coffey will be cancelled herself rather than cancelling the Tobacco Control Plan.

Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
View Articles

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.

Join the discussion

Vaping News

Harm Reduction For The Rich

The United Kingdom risks becoming a harm reduction country only for the wealthy, according to Michael Landl of the World Vapers’ Alliance

Vaping News

CAPHRA Highlights Tobacco Control Flaws

The Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates highlights the flaws in tobacco control which has led to the rise of black market in Australia

Vaping News

A Missed Opportunity at COP10

The Smoke Free Sweden movement says that COP10 was a missed opportunity to save millions of lives

Vaping News

COP10: Promote Tobacco Harm Reduction

Experts with Smoke Free Sweden are emphasising the urgent need for a Tobacco Harm Reduction approach at COP10