Yorkshire Times
Weekend Edition
5:00 AM 9th June 2021

Yorkshire & The Humber Public Backs Government Ambition To End Tobacco Epidemic By 2030

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
More than three quarters (76%) of people in the Yorkshire & the Humber back the Government’s ambition to make smoking history by 2030.

The level of public support is revealed today [Wednesday 9th June], as the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health warns the Government that it can only build back better and fairer from the pandemic by making smoking obsolete.

Now, say the cross-party group of MPs and peers, is the time for Government to commit to the actions needed to secure its vision of a Smokefree 2030.

They note that, as the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, pointed out recently, this is an industry that kills people for profit, and more people are likely to have died last year and this year from smoking than COVID-19.

Smoking kills around 13,200 people a year in Yorkshire & the Humber with 15.7% of people in the region still lighting up, around 680,000 smokers. Smoking not only kills people prematurely, it also drives them into poverty and reduces healthy life expectancy, with smokers needing help with everyday tasks 7 years earlier than those who’ve never smoked. But this burden is not equal. Smoking is concentrated among disadvantaged groups locking in poverty and poor health across the generations.

The All Party Group report, published today, urges the Government to use the opportunity provided by Brexit to step up and take its place on the world stage as a global leader in tobacco control. The report’s recommendations include:

Funding for tobacco control programmes to be secured through a ‘polluter pays’ amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill, forcing manufacturers to pay to deliver the end of smoking.
Targeted investment to provide additional support to help smokers quit in regions and communities where smoking does most damage. This includes those in routine and manual jobs and the unemployed; living in social housing; with a mental health condition; and pregnant smokers.
Tougher tobacco regulations to protect children and young people from becoming smokers and help smokers quit, such as putting health warnings on cigarettes and raising the age of sale to 21.

Bob Blackman MP (Chairman of the APPG, Harrow East, Conservative) said:
“Our report sets out measures which will put us on track to achieve the Government’s ambition to end smoking by 2030, but they can’t be delivered without funding. Tobacco manufacturers make extreme profits selling highly addictive, lethal products, while government coffers are bare because of COVID-19. The manufacturers have the money, they should be made to pay to end the epidemic.”

Ex-smoker Sue Mountain underwent laser treatment in 2012 after a biopsy revealed she had laryngeal cancer. The cancer returned in 2017 which required radiotherapy every day for four weeks.

“I fully support the APPG report and urge the Government to accept its recommendations – we have a real opportunity to end the harm caused by tobacco once and for all.

“As a former smoker and cancer survivor, I’m one of the lucky ones. Smoking makes life a misery for many thousands of people every year who suffer from debilitating diseases before it kills them. It’s shocking that tobacco companies are making massive profits from an addiction that robs people of their lives and their health. I believe they should be made to pay for the damage they do.”

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH, said:
“We all applauded when the Government announced its ambition for a Smokefree 2030. But that was two years ago, the time has now come to deliver.”

Prof Linda Bauld, Director of the SPECTRUM public health research consortium said:
“The members of our academic consortium, SPECTRUM, are delighted that our research has helped provide the evidence base for the APPG’s recommendations to government for the next Tobacco Control Plan for England. Using research to prevent and address the harm caused by unhealthy commodities like tobacco by identifying and evaluating solutions, is our core mission.”

The report highlights evidence showing widespread public support for government action with low levels of opposition. More than three quarters (76%) of the public in Yorkshire & the Humber support the Government’s Smokefree 2030 ambition (7% oppose).

There is widespread support for specific policy interventions too. 80% support making tobacco manufacturers pay a levy to Government for measures to help smokers quit and prevent young people from taking up smoking (5% oppose). While 64% of people in Yorkshire & the Humber support increasing the age of sale from 18 to 21 (14% oppose).

Nationally these measures are supported by voters for all parties. More than three quarters of those surveyed who voted Conservative (76%), Labour (82%) or Liberal Democrat (87%) in the 2019 election support the idea of a levy on tobacco manufacturers. Strongest support for raising the age of sale to 21 comes from those who voted Conservative in 2019, two thirds (66%) of whom support raising the age of sale to 21 compared with 63% of Labour voters and 64% of Liberal Democrat voters.[1]

The report and its recommendations have been endorsed by leading health organisations including the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, the Association of Directors of Public Health, Asthma UK, the British Heart Foundation, the British Lung Foundation, the British Thoracic Society, Cancer Research UK, the Faculty of Public Health, the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, the Health Foundation and the Royal College of Physicians.

Commenting on a new report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health, recommending the legal age of sale for tobacco products is raised from 18 to 21 years, Christopher Snowdon, Head of Lifestyle Economics at free market think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, said:
“Cigarettes are a legal product available to adults which, in the UK, means people aged 18 or over. If this All-Party Parliamentary Group and its friends at Action on Smoking and Health believe the age of consent should be higher, it should lobby to raise the voting age to 21.

“If people are not old enough to make the decision to smoke, they are not old enough to make more important decisions about who runs the country. Unless the APPG wants to raise the age of consent for all adult activities, this proposal will be seen as a move towards prohibition.”