The new Tobacco Control Plan for England now replaces the older version, introduced by David Cameron’s Conservative-Lib Dem alliance. The old version gave us Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) limits to atomisers and juice bottle size, a restriction on nicotine content and a heavy hand on advertising.
The objectives of the new tobacco control plan are to:
- reduce the number of 15 year olds who regularly smoke from 8% to 3% or less
- reduce smoking among adults in England from 15.5% to 12% or less
- reduce the inequality gap in smoking prevalence, between those in routine and manual occupations and the general population
- reduce the prevalence of smoking in pregnancy from 10.5% to 6% or less
The aim is to achieve these objectives by the end of 2022.
Britain is one of the world’s focal points for progressive pro-harm reduction ideas and expert knowledge. With the advent of the Public Health England report, and then the paper by the Royal College of Physicians, we have cemented our reputation for forward thinking.
But looking to the future and saving lives in the present hasn’t been the government’s will, beyond giving vaping lip service. All the way back in February, a cross-party group of peers demanded the release of the new tobacco control plan. Lord Hunt of Kings Heath believed May’s hesitancy to publish was linked to major cuts in the public health grant to local authorities.
There is no word of how any future plans might be funded and whether Jeremy Hunt has been told where May is hiding her “magic money tree”, but there is a clear statement of intent to change things on the back of the referendum.
On page 27 of the document, the government give a clear indication that, after we have left the European Union, there will be a rethink on legislation and how it is applied to vaping: “On the 23 June 2016, the UK voted to leave the European Union (EU). Until exit negotiations are concluded, the UK remains a full member of the EU and all the rights and obligations of EU membership remain in force.
“During this period the government will continue to negotiate, implement and apply EU legislation. The outcome of the exit negotiations will determine what arrangements apply in relation to EU legislation in future once the UK has left the EU. Future tobacco control measures will need to reflect the new environment in which tobacco control will be delivered.
“Over the course of this Tobacco Control Plan, the government will review where the UK’s exit from the EU offers us opportunities to re-appraise current regulation to ensure this continues to protect the nation’s health. We will look to identify where we can sensibly deregulate without harming public health or where EU regulations limit our ability to deal with tobacco.
“In particular, the government will assess recent legislation such as the Tobacco Products Directive, including as it applies to e-cigarettes, and consider where the UK’s exit provides opportunity to alter the legislative provisions to provide for improved health outcomes within the UK context.
“The government will continue to embrace developments that have the potential to reduce the harm caused by tobacco use and as such we will consider if the current regulatory framework strikes the right balance, and whether there is more we can do to help people to stop smoking. We remain committed to a comprehensive and robust tobacco control strategy which protects the population of England.”
Coverage of the plan itself, its implications for various users and the feelings of experts will be covered in articles next week.