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Smoking prevalence

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.

In a July 2019 health prevention Green Paper, the Government set out an ambition to for England to become ‘smoke-free’, and an ‘ultimatum’ for industry to make smoked tobacco obsolete by 2030.

The Tobacco Control Plan for England

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

  • 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 is due to publish a new Tobacco Control Plan. It was originally expected by the end of 2021, although this deadline may have changed.

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.[1] The Regulations also only permit a specified shape or type of packet and set a minimum amount of tobacco or cigarettes in each individual packet.

Post implementation review

As per the conditions of both the TRPR and SPoT, the government is required to complete a review of the legislation- a post implementation review (PIR), within five years of the Regulations coming into effect.

The PIR was due to have been completed by 20 May 202113F[2], and the government has said that the forthcoming Tobacco Control Plan will take into account the conclusions of the PIR.15F[3]

The Government held a consultation on these Regulations between 29 January and 19 March 2021.[4] The government said that the consultation, which only considers the TRPR and SPoT, provided an opportunity to give feedback on the effectiveness of the legislation in achieving its objectives along with any unintended consequences which may have occurred.[5]

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is currently reviewing responses to the consultation[6] and is due to publish the PIR by the end of the year.[7]

Following the consultation, a report which will be published which will:

  • set out the objectives intended to be achieved by the regulatory provision made by these regulations
  • assess the extent to which those objectives are achieved
  • assess whether those objectives remain appropriate
  • if those objectives remain appropriate, assess the extent to which they could be achieved in another way which involves less onerous regulatory provision2F[8]

Taxation

Total receipts from tobacco products are estimated to be £9.8 billion in 2020/21.[9] The majority of receipts – 74% – are accounted for by cigarettes, while hand rolling tobacco (HRT) accounts for 24% of receipts.[10]

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.[11]

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.[12]

The Autumn Budget and Spending Review 2021 reiterated this policy. The Budget report also confirmed that the rate on hand-rolling tobacco would increase by RPI + 6% and the minimum excise tax would increase by RPI +3% this year.[13]

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

[2]      DHSC, A consultation on the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 and the Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015, updated 20 May 2021

[3]      PQ 7119, 7 June 2021

[4]      DHSC, A consultation on the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 and the Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015, updated 20 May 2021

[5]      DHSC, A consultation on the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 and the Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015, updated 20 May 2021

[6]      DHSC, Tobacco and related products legislation introduced between 2015 to 2016: reviewing effectiveness, last updated 20 May 2021

[7]      PQ 56261, 25 Oct 2021

[8]      DHSC, A consultation on the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 and the Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015, updated 20 May 2021

[9]      Office for Budget Responsibility, Economic and Fiscal Outlook, CP545, October 2021 p99 (Table 3.4)

[10]     HMRC, Tobacco statistics commentary July 2021, 31 August 2021. Figures for 2021/22 to date.

[11]     HMRC publishes guidance on tobacco products duty on Gov.uk.

[12]     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, August 2021.

[13]     Autumn Budget and Spending Review 2011, HC 822, October 2021 para 5.60


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