The Government will miss its target to make England smoke-free by 2030 unless it takes further action, leading medics have said.
In an open letter to the Prime Minister and Health Secretary Sajid Javid, experts said that “despite acknowledging that it would be extremely challenging”, there is still no sign to date of the “bold action the Government promised to deliver this crucial public health objective.”
Signatories to the letter include Dr Nicholas Hopkinson, chairman of Action on Smoking and Health; Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges; Dr Jennifer Dixon, chief executive of the Health Foundation; Dr Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians and Professor Maggie Rae, president of the Faculty of Public Health.
The letter also has the backing of the charities Asthma UK, Cancer Research UK, the British Thoracic Society and the British Heart Foundation.
Published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the letter said: “Although we are a world leader in tobacco control, the current rate of decline in smoking is insufficient to deliver the ambition.”
Half the difference in life expectancy between rich and poor people is the result of smokingLetter published by senior medics
Since the plan was announced two years ago, more than 200,000 children under the age of 16 in England have started smoking, two-thirds of whom will go on to become daily smokers, it added.
“Half the difference in life expectancy between rich and poor people is the result of smoking, and the economic, as well as health, gains from a smoke-free country will benefit most those in disadvantaged groups and disadvantaged regions.”
The experts argue that the Government should implement the recommendations from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health, including introducing a levy on tobacco manufacturers, which could raise £700 million in year one alone.
“This could pay for delivery of the Tobacco Control Plan and provide additional funding that public health desperately needs,” the letter said.
“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.
“The time has come to make tobacco manufacturers pay to end the epidemic that they and they alone have caused.”