Tobacco plan aims for ‘smoke-free generation’

The government has published its new tobacco control plan, outlining that its vision is ‘nothing less than to create a smoke-free generation’. Earlier this year more than 1,000 doctors and other health professionals wrote an open letter to Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt calling for a new control plan to be published ‘without delay’ as the previous one had expired at the end of 2015 (DDN, February, page 5).

Towards a smoke-free generation: a tobacco control plan for England comes less than a week after the publication of the delayed 2017 drug strategy, and aims to cut the number of 15-year-olds who smoke from 8 per cent to 3 per cent or less, as well as reduce the adult smoking rate from 15.5 per cent to 12 per cent.

While smoking rates have fallen from just under 20 per cent at the start of the decade to their lowest ever level (DDN, July/August, page 4) the plan’s objective is to reduce the ‘inequality gap’ in smoking prevalence, as smoking accounts for approximately half the difference in life expectancy between society’s richest and poorest. There are still 7.3m adult smokers in England and ‘smoking and its associated harms continue to fall hardest on some of the poorest and most vulnerable’, the document states. Among the plan’s other commitments are to improve data collection on smoking and mental health and provide access to training for all health professionals on how to help patients – especially those in mental health services – to quit.

Anti-smoking charity ASH welcomed the ‘step change in ambition’ represented by the vision of a smoke-free generation, but stressed that it was vital that the correct funding was in place to achieve it. Recent analysis by the King’s Fund found that reductions in local authority public health spending as a result of government cuts threatened smoking cessation alongside drug and alcohol services.

‘Funding must be found if the government is to achieve its vision of a “smoke-free generation”,’ said ASH chief executive Deborah Arnott. ‘The tobacco industry should be made to pay a through a licence fee on the “polluter pays” principle. Tobacco manufacturers are some of the most profitable companies on earth; they can easily afford the costs of radical action to drive down smoking rates.’

Document at www.gov.uk

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