Fresh welcomes new Tobacco Control Plan for England

Published Tuesday, 18th July 2017

Fresh has welcomed the Government’s new Tobacco Control Plan for England, “Towards a Smokefree Generation”, published today and which sets an ultimate goal of 5% or fewer people smoking.

The previous Plan, which highlighted work in the North East, expired at the end of 2015, and pressure has been growing from parliament and the public health community for the Government to renew its commitment to tackling smoking. There is also strong public support to limit smoking, with 78% of North East adults supporting further government action.

Fresh welcomes the Government’s vision of a “smokefree generation”, defined as a smoking prevalence rate of 5% or less. Smoking rates have fallen in the North East from 29% of people smoking in 2005 to 17.2% in 2016. A vision for the North East of 5% overall adult smoking rates by 2025 was backed by NHS and local government leaders in 2014. Modelling undertaken earlier this year identified that this could be achieved and that the region remain committed to this ambition.

The plan also encourages local authorities to work together, which has been happening in the North East since 2005 through the regional programme Fresh. The Plan also sets out a clear role set out for the NHS in supporting all smokers to quit and this a rallying call to the NHS to put treating tobacco dependency as a core part of their prevention efforts as set out in the Five Year Forward View. 

Ailsa Rutter, Director of Fresh said: "We have made fantastic strides over the past decade and we welcome the government renewing its commitment to reduce smoking further.

"It is good to see recognition that joined up working across localities can be effective - this has enabled the North East to take regional action on media campaigns, on tackling illegal tobacco, encouraging smokefree homes and reducing smoking in pregnancy, and we have achieved the largest fall in smoking nationwide since 2005.

"However, this plan is published at a time when councils and the NHS are facing difficult funding challenges.  For local action to work it needs to be funded, especially to tackle appalling rates of smoking-related disease among people from our poorest communities and people with mental health problems.

"We also now need the NHS to play a bigger role in prevention, so that smokers are offered support to quit at every GP and hospital appointment. This will reduce the burden of disease long term but also ease pressures on hospital wards.

"What the plan does not include and we will continue to ask for is a licencing scheme to sell tobacco which is paid for by tobacco companies. This would help us to further cut illegal tobacco and sales to children."

Over the next five years until the end of 2022 the targets set out in the national plan are to:

· Reduce smoking prevalence among adults from 15.5% to 12% or less

· Reduce the proportion of 15 year olds who regularly smoke from 8% to 3% or less

· Reduce the prevalence of smoking in pregnancy from 10.7%  to 6% or less  

Councillor Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council and Chair of the Making Smoking History in the North East Partnership said:

“We welcome this Plan which clearly sets out the rationale for why reducing smoking remains such a key priority if we are to address health inequalities and improve health and wellbeing for all.  It is a shocking fact that today tobacco will kill 15 local people here in the North East and for every one person who dies; another 20 are suffering from an avoidable smoking related illness.

“What we need to see is funding to match the seriousness of this issue and whilst in local government we recognise the importance of tobacco control, we need to ensure that we receive the funds required to address this.

“It is important that here in the North East we remain committed to our shared collective ambition to ‘Make Smoking History’ and to unite in our efforts to reduce smoking across all our communities. We’ve made good progress but the job is not done.”

Deborah Arnott ASH Chief Executive said: “ASH congratulates Steve Brine for showing his commitment to tobacco control by getting the new Plan published only weeks after taking over as Public Health Minister. The vision of a “smokefree generation” it sets out is a welcome step change in ambition from the last Tobacco Control Plan for England.”

The Plan calls for a shift in emphasis from national to local action in order to achieve the vision of a “smokefree generation”. But this comes at a time of severe government cuts in public health funding which threaten successful implementation of the Plan.

Commenting on this Deborah Arnott said: “Funding must be found if the Government is to achieve its vision of a “smokefree generation”. 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.” 

The Plan sets out specific commitments including to:

· Continue to use mass media campaigns to promote smoking cessation and raise awareness of the harms of smoking.

· Reduce the inequality gap in smoking prevalence between those in routine and manual occupations and the general population

· Provide access to training for all health professionals on how to help patients quit smoking.

· Promote links to “stop smoking” services across the health and care system and full implementation of all relevant NICE guidelines by 2022.

· Implement comprehensive smokefree policies, including integrated tobacco dependence treatment pathways, in all mental health services by 2018; and improve data on smoking and mental health; in order to better support people with mental health conditions to quit smoking.

· Maximise the availability of safer alternatives to smoking.

· Maintain high duty rates for tobacco products to make tobacco less affordable.

· Continue to uphold its obligations under the WHO FCTC.

 The Plan highlights the challenges: 

  • There are still 7.3 million smokers in England, and more than 200 people a day die from smoking related illness that could have been prevented.
  • The difference in life expectancy between people in the poorest and richest social groups in England is about 9 years on average, and the difference in smoking rates accounts for about half this difference.
Smoking costs our economy in excess of £11 billion a year, including £2.5 billion to the NHS, £5.3 billion to employers (because of lost output due to sickness and smoking breaks), £4.1 billion to the wider society due to lost output. There are further costs including around £760 million from increased social care costs to local councils.