Unless the government commits to sustained and immediate action it could miss its 2030 smokefree target by decades, according to a new independent review.

The review into tobacco control was commissioned by Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid and led by Dr Javed Khan OBE, former CEO of children’s charity Barnardo’s, to look at ways the government can help more people quit smoking and live healthier lives.

Tobacco remains the single biggest cause of preventable illness and death and in 2019, the government set an objective for England to be smokefree by 2030, meaning only 5% of the population would smoke by then. 

The Royal College of Physicians say that around 64,000 people in the UK die from smoking every year and this review provides a unique opportunity to protect the next generation from extreme harm.

Need to commit to making smoking obsolete

The new review recommended the government invests an additional £125 million per year in order to meet its national target to be smokefree by 2030.

It also recommended that the age of sale from 18 was raised by one year every year, until eventually no one can buy a tobacco product in this country.

Other suggestions included promoting vapes as an effective “swap to stop” tool to help people quit smoking and ringfencing extra £70 million per year for stop smoking services.

Dr Javed Khan OBE said: "In this review I have looked at our current smokefree initiatives, along with the very best practice from around the world. I would like to thank the many valued voices that have made key contributions towards shaping this bold and ambitious report.

"Without immediate and sustained action, England will miss the smokefree target by many years and most likely decades. My proposals are not just a plan for this government, but successive governments too. To truly achieve a smokefree society in our great country, we need to commit to making smoking obsolete, once and for all."

The scale of the issue is undeniable

The news comes after the publication of a recent study in The Lancet Regional Health – Europe that found that 58% of people at risk of becoming alcohol dependent were current smokers, compared to 15% among the general population.

They also found that smoking prevalence and dependency increased in line with alcohol consumption – that is, the more a person drank, the more likely it was that they smoked, and the more cigarettes they were likely to smoke in a day.

Recent research by YouGov commissioned by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) also showed that a substantial majority support stronger government interventions to tackle smoking. 

Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK Michelle Mitchell added: "Smoking is the biggest cause of cancer, with 1 in 4 deaths from all cancers estimated to be from smoking in the UK. The scale of the issue is undeniable, yet England remains off track to become smokefree by 2030, and for the most deprived this won’t be achieved until the mid-2040s."