Smoke-Free GB

Posted 23rd July 2019 by Dave Cross
The government has announced its plans to eliminate smoking by 2030 in a new Green Paper, leaked to the media this week. What often goes unreported is that the previous target was to achieve a smoke-free country by 2025.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock wanted to delay the publication of the Green Paper further, despite extensive delays to publication already, but it was leaked by someone inside Theresa May’s team prior to her leaving office. Some see this as her attempting to handcuff the next Prime Minister to the contents.

The Green Paper states: “Thanks to our concerted efforts on smoking, we now have one of the lowest smoking rates in Europe with fewer than one in six adults smoking. Yet, for the 14 per cent of adults who still smoke, it's the main risk to health."

The government declares it is, "setting an ambition to go 'smoke-free' in England by 2030. This includes an ultimatum for industry to make smoked tobacco obsolete by 2030, with smokers quitting or moving to reduced risk products like e-cigarettes.”

The paper seeks to ensure that smokers who are admitted to hospital are offered help to quit. Despite being mooted, there is no commitment either to place a levy on tobacco companies in order to fund stop smoking services. There is still the chance that this may be included in future legislation.

The Green Paper heralds a consultation process. During this period, the government will seek opinions on:

  • The ‘polluter pays’ approach placing a levy on tobacco companies
  • The placing of inserts in tobacco products

Councillor Ian Hudspeth, of the Local Government Association, said the green paper was "ambitiousand contained “some interesting ideas".

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth branded the Green Paper "extremely disappointing".

Helen Donovan, of the Royal College of Nursing, said: "We've been waiting some time for these plans which appear to have been buried in the dying days of the current government."

Many passed comment that current cuts to funding and services would severely hamper progress to achieve the target.

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said: “The Government is to be congratulated on setting an ambitious target to end smoking by 2030. However, to achieve this will require innovative new policies and funding, to quote the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, ‘business as usual’ will not suffice. The public understand this, which is why three quarters of the adult population in England support Government interventions to limit smoking, with a growing proportion of them thinking Government should do more.”

Dan Marchant, UK Vaping Industry Association board member said: “The Green Paper on prevention takes very welcome and positive steps in recognising the public health prize offered by vaping and how it can help reduce tobacco harm. Eradicating smoking by 2030 is an ambitious goal and will need bold steps to achieve it. One of those steps should be widespread support for vaping, particularly amongst the public health community. As the Green Paper notes, there is a large amount of research now available to support vaping as a safer alternative to smoking and help people quit smoking. As it is widely accessible it can help target those hard to reach groups amongst whom smoking rates remain persistently high, which is a key ambition contained in the Green Paper.”

“We have already seen welcome steps taken in Birmingham with the first vape shops opening in NHS hospitals, and more hospitals should be encouraged to offer this support to their patients as part of the Government’s plans.”

“Urgent action is needed to realise these ambitions. The UKVIA will be responding to the consultation fully, and stands ready to meet and engage with Health Ministers in the new Government to ensure that the Green Paper sets the right agenda going forward.”

Resources:

  • Green Paper: Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s – [link]
  • Delivering the vision of a ‘Smokefree Generation’ by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health – [link]
 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker