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Tobacco tax must be increased to support preventative public health – APPG

The government should increase its tobacco tax to 5% to fund yearly £300m anti-smoking schemes, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health said in its submission to the Spending Review.

This would help tackle public health issues and alleviate demand on the NHS, according to the group.

The changes would see the tax rising by three percentage points to cover the next five years, in addition to changes in the tax structure. The group hopes that this would help fund an additional £100m investment in tobacco control schemes which currently receive around £200m per year.

In its submission, the group claimed that these changes could deliver a return of almost 1100% until the end of the decade, as well as “neatly double” the rate of decline in smoking.

And it added that, given that the NHS funding gap is “unlikely to be closed entirely through increase efficiency levels alone”, further investment in preventative public health could go a long way.

It said: “To avoid large reductions in the supply of NHS services, it will be necessary to reduce demand for NHS services by improving public health. The inquiry [launched by the group in response to the Spending Review] heard strong evidence that continuing to drive down smoking prevalence will be essential to the success of this strategy.

“Evidence presented to the inquiry by Public Health England shows that declines in smoking prevalence since the introduction of a comprehensive tobacco control strategy in 1998 have led to significant reductions in the cost of smoking to the NHS.

“Therefore, further reducing smoking prevalence rates must remain a high priority for public health. It is also a high priority if the NHS is to remain a sustainable service, providing comprehensive medical care free at the point of need.”

“Furthermore, evidence to our inquiry from the economist Howard Reed suggests that measures to reduce smoking prevalence are not just cost-effective but also revenue generating, because they lead to increased productivity and reductions in expenditure on the NHS, social care and benefits.”

It added that stop smoking services should become mandatory rather than just a discretionary service for both primary and secondary care, and that these services should be required to submit quarterly monitoring data.

And it called on Whitehall to commit a “refreshed” public health strategy, with a target financial contribution to reducing the projected NHS funding gap through specific public health objectives.

But the director general of the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, Giles Roca, said the proposals are “economic illiterate” and “counterproductive”.

He added: “Every time taxation is increased on tobacco, it loses the Treasury millions that could have been spent on public services. That’s because tax on tobacco has increased by over 40% over the last five years, making UK tobacco the most expensive in Europe.

“Smokers are then increasingly switching the cheaper and often illegal products, which loses the Treasury some £2.6bn each year. Small shops also suffer as they struggle to compete with illegal traders selling products at less than half the legitimate retail price.”

Rocca suggested than, instead of imposing more tax on a “legitimate UK sector”, the government should hold an independent review of tobacco tax policy.

However the Parliamentary group’s chairman, Conservative MP Bob Blackman, said every pound invested over the next five years could deliver £11 to the public purse.

And in August, a report by the King’s Fund said that the Spending Review will be a “litmus test” of whether the government is committed to investing in public health and prevention.

It said: “To date, this narrative has been accompanied by little in the way of tangible policy initiatives, with the government’s only notable intervention being to rule out a tax on sugar when this was suggested by a junior health minister.”


Gillian   14/10/2015 at 11:36

How ironic that there is a call for a higher tobacco tax to fund more Public Health preventative measures? The taxes from the key 'enemies' of health, tobacco and alcohol are prolific tax raisers and yet I have to ask the question - if people didn't smoke and drink where would all the money come from to fund health services?,So you tax and tax both commodities and the amount of money raised will go down because people will not be able to afford 'legitimate' brands and will turn to black market tobacco and alcohol products which are harmful and unregulated, thus creating even greater health problems. If we all did as the "experts" say and stopped drinking and smoking, where would the funding for the NHS services come from?

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