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Smoking prevalence has shown a declining trend since the mid-1970s. In 2009, 22% of men and 20% of women in England smoked, compared with 17% of men and 14% of women in 2019. Overall smoking prevalence fell from 21% in 2009 to 16% in 2019.

The Tobacco Control Plan for England

The 2017-2022 Tobacco Control Plan set out four national ambitions:

  • The first smokefree generation
  • A smokefree pregnancy for all
  • Parity of esteem for those with mental health conditions
  • Backing evidence-based innovations to support quitting

The Plan sets out a number of specific targets, including reducing smoking prevalence amongst adults in England from 15.5% to 12% or less, reducing the prevalence of smoking in pregnancy from 10.7% to 6% or less, making all mental health inpatient services sites smokefree by 2018 and maximising the availability of safer alternatives to smoking.

The Government intends to publish a new Tobacco Control Plan by the end of 2021.0F[1] The new Plan will take into account the findings of the Government’s review of tobacco legislation, and Public Health England’s seventh report on vaping.

Government review of tobacco legislation

The Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 (TRPR) implement the majority of provisions from the Tobacco Products Directive (2014/40/EU). The Regulations make provision for a number of tobacco and e-cigarette related controls, such as the size of health warnings on product packaging and the prohibiting of misleading descriptors such as ‘natural’ or ‘organic on tobacco and e-cigarette labelling.

The Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015 (SPoT) require the use of specified standard colours for all external and internal packaging of cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco, and only permit specified text (such as the brand and variant name) in a standard typeface.1F[2]  The Regulations would also only permit specified shape or type of packets and set a minimum amount of tobacco or cigarettes in each individual packets.

As per the conditions of both Regulations, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care is required to complete a review of the legislation- a post implementation review (PIR), withing five years of the Regulations coming into effect.

The Government held a consultation on these Regulations between 29 January and 19 March 2021, and has said that it will publish the PIR by the end of the year.


Total UK receipts from tobacco products is estimated to be £9.96 billion in 2020/21. The majority of receipts – just over 75% – are accounted for by cigarettes, while hand rolling tobacco (HRT) accounts for 22% of receipts.2F[3]

Since the 1980s governments have maintained high rates of excise duty on tobacco products to reduce their affordability, and encourage smokers to reduce their consumption or give up smoking entirely. Excise duty is set as a flat rate – a number of pence per g of tobacco – although, in the case of cigarettes, the duty charge includes a second ad valorem element.3F[4]

It has been government policy since 2011/12 to increase the rate of excise duty on cigarettes by 2 per cent above inflation each year.4F[5]

[1]   PQ 7119, 7 Jun 2021

[2]   Explanatory memorandum to The Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015

[3]   HMRC, Tobacco statistics commentary April 2021, 28 May 2021

[4]   HMRC publishes guidance on tobacco products duty on

[5]   Previous governments have set a higher duty escalator on tobacco products – 3% over the six years November 1993 to November 1999, and 5% from July 1997. See, HMRC, Historical Tobacco Duty rates, May 2021.

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