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A Westminster Hall debate has been tabled by the Backbench Business Committee on the tobacco control plan at 1.30pm on 13 October 2016. The debate will be led by Alex Cunningham, Norman Lamb and Flick Drummond.

This debate pack includes press and parliamentary material, and further reading on tobacco control policies.

Information on smoking statistics is provided in a July Commons Library Briefing Paper, Statistics on Smoking.


The March 2011 Healthy Lives, Healthy people: A Tobacco Control Plan for England, ran out at the end of 2015. The plan set out three goals:

  • Reduce smoking prevalence among adults in England: To reduce adult (aged 18 or over) smoking prevalence in England to 18.5 per cent or less by the end of 2015, meaning around 210,000 fewer smokers a year.
  • Reduce smoking prevalence among young people in England: To reduce rates of regular smoking among 15 year olds in England to 12 per cent or less by the end of 2015. 
  • Reduce smoking during pregnancy in England: To reduce rates of smoking throughout pregnancy to 11 per cent or less by the end of 2015 (measured at time of giving birth).

The plan established support for tobacco control in England across six strands:

  • stopping the promotion of tobacco;
  • making tobacco less affordable;
  • effective regulation of tobacco products;
  • helping tobacco users to quit;
  • reducing exposure to secondhand smoke; and
  • effective communications for tobacco control.The Government have said they will publish a new tobacco control plan in 2016.

In response to a December 2015 Westminster Hall debate on the tobacco control strategy, the then Public Health Minister, Jane Ellison explained that the development of the strategy would involve supporting local action on tobacco control in order to tackle health inequality:

In developing the strategy, we will review the current national ambitions, and we will further empower local areas and support action within them, particularly where tobacco control strategies can be tailored to the unique needs of local populations. We cannot ignore the stark differences in the results of different areas across our country, so the new strategy has to focus on those discrepancies. Robust activity at that level is vital if we are to tackle the impact of health inequalities in England and ensure that smoking prevalence continues to decline in all communities. We will, of course, need to support local authorities in pursuing collaborative partnerships and securing a high return on investment as they prioritise and streamline their budgets.[1]

She went on to say that the strategy was unlikely to introduce new legislative interventions, but would set out what must be done to identify and develop new measures for reducing smoking and smoking harm:

We have introduced a significant tranche of legislation, some of which is still to come into force, so we are unlikely to commit in the strategy to a package of legislative interventions. I think colleagues appreciate the reasons for that. Rather, we will set out what we must do to identify and develop new and more effective measures for reducing smoking and smoking harm.

[…] Of course, tobacco control is not a matter just for legislation or for the Department for Health. There are a range of measures that can choke off the supply of new smokers and help those already addicted to quit. We will work with Her Majesty’s Treasury on tax, as Members would expect; with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs on the illicit trade; with local authorities, as I have already said; and, of course, with the NHS on smoking cessation services. I am conscious, as we look at the preventive landscape, that there has rightly been a focus on the five-year forward view. I am looking at several strands of that key piece of work, and this strategy is part of it. Our colleagues in trading standards, who do so much great work on enforcement, are also part of the solution. We will work with academia, the Royal Colleges and the wider tobacco control community to look at what works and how the Government can play their part.[2]

In June 2015, the report Smoking still kills was published by the public health charity, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and endorsed by a wide range of public health organisations and medical charities. This stated that, in its view, a new tobacco control strategy was urgently needed; that progress under the last strategy had been impressive but new targets and further measures were required.  Recommendations of the report included:

  • a new annual levy on tobacco companies, to help fund tobacco control policies and smoking cessation services;
  • the adoption of a new target to reduce adult smoking prevalence to less than 5% by 2035; and
  • ensuring that evidence based smoking cessation services are accessible to all, especially those from lower socio-economic groups and disadvantaged populations.[3]

[1]     HC Deb 17 December 2015, c635WH

[2]     HC deb 17 December 2015, c636WH

[3]     ASH, Smoking still kills, 2015

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