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Ambitious tobacco plan for England

William Hatchett26/07/2017 - 14:00

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Smoking prevalence falls
Smoking prevalence falls

The Department of Health’s Tobacco Control Plan for England lays down a bold ambition to reduce smoking prevalence in England, with the aim of creating a smoke free generation.

The 2017-2022 Tobacco Control Plan for England sets the overarching strategic direction for tobacco policy.
Steve Byrne, public health minister, notes in the introduction that, since the previous 2011 to 2015 plans smoking prevalence has reduced from 20.2 per cent of adults to 15.5 per cent – the lowest since records began.

Legislation introduced has included standardised packaging of tobacco products and a ban on smoking in a car when a young person is present. He said: ‘The UK now has tobacco control legislation which is the envy of the world.’

Mr Byrne said that the plan does not introduce new legislation. Instead, it shifts emphasis from action at the national level such as legislation to focused, local action, supporting smokers, particularly in disadvantaged groups, to quit.

The plan’s targets include:
• reduce the prevalence of 15 year olds who regularly smoke from 8 per cent to 3 per cent or less by the end of 2022.
• reduce smoking prevalence amongst adults in England from 15.5 per cent to 12 per cent or less by the end of 2022
• reduce the inequality gap in smoking prevalence between those in routine and manual occupations and the general population by the end of 2022.
• reduce the prevalence of smoking in pregnancy from 10.5 per cent to per cent or less by the end of 2022.

The plan explains that 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. Forty-one per cent of adults with a serious mental illness smoke and they die ten to 20 years earlier than the general population.

Smoking costs our economy more than £11 bn a year, including £2.5 bn to the NHS, £5.3 n to employers (because of lost output due to sickness and smoking breaks), £4.1 bn to the wider society due to lost output. There are further costs including around £760 m from increased social care costs to local authorities.

Since 2011-12 attendance at local stop smoking services has been declining. The report says: ‘Comprehensive and effective local tobacco strategies require joined up working and integrated commissioning between the local government and the NHS. It is through such partnerships that local areas can demonstrate strategic leadership and champion “whole systems” `approaches.’

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