EHCC Statement on new Tobacco Control Plan for England Towards a Smokefree Generation
18 July 2017
Ian Gray, Co-Director Environmental Health Collaborating Centre
“The UK now has comprehensive tobacco control legislation which is the envy of the World. But . . . there is more to do”
– so states the new Tobacco Control Plan for England Towards a Smokefree Generation and it provides the evidence for this:
- 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.
That the government’s plan has been published now, after such a long and unexplained delay, is an indication of the positive commitment to this topic by the newly appointed Public Health Minister, Steve Brine, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health and Primary Care.
Whilst the plan does not include all we hoped for it does include a vision for a “smokefree generation”. This will be achieved, it states, when smoking prevalence is at 5% or below. To reach this target will require a focus on tobacco control across the whole system and the plan includes initiatives to tackle some of the thorny problems that the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) and other campaigners will welcome.
There are commitments and action plans to:
- Reduce smoking prevalence over the next five years, until the end of 2022, from 15.5% to 12% or less among adults and to 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.
- Make all mental health inpatient services sites smokefree by 2018.
- Create a completely smokefree NHS estate by 2020.
- Implement smokefree policies across all prisons in England.
The plan states that the smokefree laws have proven to be highly effective and “There is no further legislative change planned.” However, despite smokefree legislation, evidence shows that over a quarter of people are exposed to secondhand smoke, with over half of 16 to 24 year olds reporting exposure. Public Health England will have a lead role in raising awareness and will also:
- Assess the evidence base around perception and role-modelling for smokefree outdoor places.
- Support local areas looking to implement local smokefree policies differentiating the levels of harm caused by existing tobacco products including e-cigarettes and other novel products.
This directly aligns with the CIEH call on World No Tobacco Day 2016 for voluntary ‘no smoking zones’ to be implemented across the UK wherever children play or learn
Environmental health practitioners and other regulatory officers will be disappointed that there is no mention of the problems being encountered by the increasing commercial provision of shisha. The very real challenges to effective enforcement of smokefree and other tobacco control laws, which are being regularly encountered by local authority enforcement staff in dealing with these establishments, are well known to the Department of Health and the opportunity could have been taken to address this.
In particular, the government has been repeatedly urged to introduce licensing of the tobacco industry at all levels from manufacturers to wholesalers and retail outlets. This would not only provide an effective measure to control the provision of shisha smoking, but would also strike a blow at the trade in illegal and illicit tobacco products, by making it an offence for a person without a licence to be in possession of tobacco products intended for sale (simples!)
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