Policy

Reducing smoking

Issue

Smoking causes more preventable deaths than anything else - nearly 80,000 in England during 2011. There’s also an impact on smokers’ families: each year, UK hospitals see around 9,500 admissions of children with illnesses caused by secondhand smoke.

Actions

There are still more than 8 million smokers in England. By the end of 2015, we want to reduce smoking rates to:

  • 18.5% or less for adults (compared to 21.2% for April 2009 to March 2010) - meaning around 210,000 fewer smokers per year
  • 12% or less for 15 year olds (compared to 15% in 2009)
  • 11% or less for pregnant women, measured at the time of giving birth (compared to 14% over 2009 to 2010)

Sale and promotion of tobacco

TV and press advertising is banned, but it’s still possible to promote cigarettes through displays in smaller shops. We will ban eye-catching displays in all shops from April 2015 (they’re already banned in supermarkets).

Tobacco taxes

It’s been proven that high prices put people off smoking - especially young people and people on lower incomes. It’s also important that cheap, black market cigarettes and tobacco don’t undermine prices.

We will:

  • continue to set tax rates high enough to discourage people from smoking
  • provide updated guidelines to make it easier for local trading standards and HM Revenue & Customs officers to work together to enforce the law against fake and smuggled tobacco

Anti-smoking campaigns

We will continue to run ‘smokefree’ campaigns to encourage people to change their behaviour. The campaigns are aimed at:

  • making people aware of the health dangers of smoking
  • stopping young people from taking up smoking
  • encouraging smokers to try and quit, and to do so in the most effective way
  • encouraging people to stop smoking in their homes and family cars - emphasising how it affects children

E-cigarettes

Electronic or e-cigarettes aren’t currently regulated like products that contain tobacco. At the moment, we don’t know enough about whether they are safe, effective or made to consistent quality standards.

So the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is carrying out research on these products - looking in particular at how different levels of nicotine affect the body. We’ll use this research to help us to decide whether we need to take any action on e-cigarettes.

Background

Smoking was banned in nearly all enclosed workplaces and public spaces in 2007. We commissioned a review of how the ban was working in 2011.

Most forms of tobacco advertising have been banned since 2003, and eye-catching displays were banned from supermarkets in April 2012.

Healthy Lives, Healthy People: a tobacco control plan for England sets out what the government plans to do over 2011 to 2015. It includes details of plans on stopping tobacco promotion, making smoking less affordable, regulating tobacco products, helping smokers to quit and reducing exposure to secondhand smoke.

Who we’ve consulted

We ran a consultation on standardising the packaging of tobacco products in 2012.

The consultation asked for views on whether standardised packaging could reduce the appeal of tobacco, make health warnings more effective, make packaging less misleading about health effects and change how children and young people think about smoking.

We’re keeping an open mind on this issue, and haven’t made any proposals yet. We’re currently analysing what people told us, and will publish a summary of responses.

Who we’re working with

Working with the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) and other organisations, we’ve produced guidance and monitoring standards so commissioners and managers of local stop-smoking services have information on which approaches work best.

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