Doctors unite with campaigners in calling for smokefree 2030

Author: Louise Prime

The government must act now to oblige tobacco manufacturers to finance the measures needed to end smoking, campaigners are demanding. The British Medical Association (BMA) and Royal College of Physicians (RCP) said they support the campaign because hundreds of children are still starting smoking every day, and smoking is still having a devastating impact on people’s health.

Smokefree Action pointed out that in July 2019 the UK government set out its ambition for England to be smokefree by 2030 – but although its own guidelines said it should have announced the next steps by 6th January 2020, it still has not done so. Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) reported yesterday that since last July’s pledge, more than 50,000 children in England have started smoking, with another 280 starting every day; and two-thirds of children who experiment with smoking go on to become daily smokers.

The BMA and RCP have joined ASH, the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, the British Lung Foundation, the Royal Society for Public Health and many others in calling on the government to adopt the Roadmap to a Smokefree 2030, and deliver on its ambition to be smokefree by 2030. Campaigners’ primary demand is for legislation to require the tobacco manufacturers to finance a sustainable Smokefree 2030 Fund, to pay for the measures needed to end smoking, including:

  • Multi-channel public education campaigns at national and regional level, which are highly cost-effective at motivating quitting, helping sustain quit attempts and discouraging youth uptake.
  • Regional and local tobacco control programmes to help smokers to quit and enforce tobacco laws.
  • Universal access to support for smokers to quit, in healthcare but also through community services, using effective evidence-based method.

The campaigners are also calling for stricter regulation of tobacco, its sale, marketing and use (for example, requiring retailers to have a licence to sell tobacco; publishing comprehensive data on sales and marketing; introducing pack inserts and dissuasive cigarettes; extending smokefree laws; and increasing the age of sale from 18 to 21); and ensuring delivery of the NHS Long Term Plan commitments to provide smoking cessation in the NHS in England.

Professor Dame Parveen Kumar, BMA board of science chair, said: “As one of the leading causes of preventable death in the UK, it is vitally important that the government delivers on its ambition for a smokefree society by 2030.

“As doctors, we see first-hand the devastating impact that smoking has on health, causing cancer, heart disease, strokes and more. With hundreds of children still taking up smoking in England each day, we need to move fast to limit the risk to their health.

“If we are to truly achieve a smokefree society we need to see bold action aimed at industry and make sure that smoking cessation services and support are adequately funded and readily available.

“If by 2030 England is smokefree, this will be an effort absolutely worth making.”

RCP president Professor Andrew Goddard added: “Every week in my hospital clinic I see patients whose diseases have either been caused by smoking, or made worse by smoking. We can’t wait until smokers get sick to give them the help they need to quit.

“All smokers should have access to the support and medication they need to ensure they have the best possible chance of quitting. Limited public health funding means that these services are no longer being provided in nearly a third of local authorities.”