A group of leading doctors, professional bodies and charities are calling on the government to deliver its pledge to make England smoke-free by 2030.
In an open letter to the Prime Minister and Health Secretary, they say smoking is likely to have killed more people last year than Covid-19 and it will carry on doing so for many years to come unless the government takes action.
They state that the government has failed to create effective policies to deliver this ambition and doing so "would play a major role in achieving Government manifesto commitments to increase healthy life expectancy by five years by 2035, while reducing inequalities and levelling up the nation."
They collectively call for a US-style ‘polluter pays’ levy on tobacco manufacturers to fund the strategy, saying “the time has come to make the tobacco manufacturers pay to end the epidemic they and they alone have caused.”
A levy on manufacturers could raise £700 million in one year alone
In the last two years, it is estimated that over 200,000 children under 16 have started to smoke, two thirds of whom will go on to become regular smokers. They state that these rates of uptake are not acceptable if we are to achieve a smoke-free country within the next decade.
The blueprint to achieve this is laid out in the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Smoking and Health recommendations for the forthcoming Tobacco Control Plan, but it needs to be properly funded.
The APPG report sets out how a levy on manufacturers could raise £700 million in one year alone, without the costs being passed on to smokers, now that we have left Europe. “This could pay for delivery of the Tobacco Control Plan, and provide additional funding that public health desperately needs.”
They point out that in 2019 Imperial Tobacco made £71 for every £100 in sales. “These are extreme profits, many times higher than those made by other consumer product manufacturers,” they say.
For this reason, the authors reiterate that it is now time to make the manufacturers pay to end the epidemic that they caused themselves.