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Stump up extra £100 million for tobacco control, MPs urge government

Cash could come from an increase in tax escalator from 2% to 5%

Caroline White

Monday, 12 October 2015

The government should stump up another £100 million for tobacco control, because it will save money in the long run and help ease demand for services in the cash strapped NHS, say a cross party group of MPs.

In a new report* that will be submitted to the Treasury ahead of the Comprehensive Spending Review next month, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health says that tobacco taxation measures are not only cost-effective but can also have a positive impact on public finances. 

The report recommends that the tobacco tax escalator be increased from 2% to 5% above inflation every year. And it calls for spending on tobacco control to be increased from £200 million to £300 million a year, funded by the additional tax rise. This additional investment could deliver a return on investment of almost 1100% over 5 years and nearly double the rate of the decline in smoking prevalence, the report suggests.

Evidence submitted to the inquiry on which the report is based showed that continuing to drive down smoking prevalence will be key to reducing demand for NHS services and helping close the funding gap, which is predicted to be £22 billion by 2020.

The NHS: Five Year Forward View emphasised that the future health of millions of children, the sustainability of the NHS, and the economic prosperity of Britain depend on a radical upgrade in prevention and public health, the report points out.

Bob Blackman, who chairs the APPG, commented: “[We call] on the Chancellor to increase tobacco taxes and invest in tobacco control in the forthcoming Spending Review. Smokers don’t just die early, they suffer many years of disease and disability before they do, putting pressure not just on the NHS, but additional disability and social care costs and reduced income tax. Every pound invested over the next five years could deliver £11 to the public purse.”

Kevin Barron, APPG vice chair, added: “If the NHS is not to sink under the overwhelming demand for its services we have to do more to prevent disease, not just treat it: 80,000 smokers die each year from smoking and twenty times more are suffering from disease and disability caused by smoking.

“Reducing smoking is the key, and we know that investment in Stop Smoking Services, mass media campaigns, and other measures at local, regional and national level are needed if smoking is to decline in the future as it has in the past.”

And he warned: “The evidence from around the world, including the UK, is that when investment is cut, smoking rates go back up again, and that more investment leads to faster rates of decline.”


* APPG on Smoking and Health: Representation to the 2015 Spending Review. All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health

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