Government’s Tobacco Control Plan Aims to Cut UK Smoking Rates

Tobacco Control PlanIn June it was reported that smoking rates across the UK had dropped to now the second lowest in Europe, with England alone having just 15.5% of its adult population being smokers, dropping from the 15.8% figure of 2016.

However, despite this being an impressively low figure, for the government, this isn’t enough. It has been announced the government want to slash smoking rates even further, bringing it down to 12% at the very most by the year 2022.

The plan forms one of a number of aims contained in the long-awaited Tobacco Control Plan, a 32 page PDF report released yesterday by the Department of Health that was initially due to be released last year.

Tobacco Control Plan Core Aims

Some of the key points derived from the report include the target of:

. Reducing the proportion of pregnant women who are smoking, aiming to cut the number from 10.5% to 6% at the very most.

. Reducing the prevalence of 15 year olds regularly smoking from 8% to 3% or even less.

. Reducing the inequality gap in smoking prevalence between those in routine and manual occupations and the general population.

. Reducing smoking prevalence amongst adults in England from 15.5% to 12% or less.

The report will be welcomed with open arms by the many healthcare professionals who had spent months encouraging Prime Minister Theresa May to publish it new plan for months, reminding her to honour her pledge to cut the gap between rich and poor. Between these two demographics, a 9-year contrast exists with life expectancy and this is the result of smoking.

Steve Brine, the parliamentary undersecretary of state for public health and primary care, wrote in the foreword of the plan: “This injustice in the variation in smoking prevalence can be seen across England; from places where adult smoking is as low as 5% to others where smoking remains above 25%. The prevalence remains even higher in people with mental health conditions, where more than 40% of adults with a serious mental illness smoke. We want to address this. Our vision is nothing less than to create a smoke-free generation.”

The government now plan to undertake a number of measures in order to hit their targets, such as making the NHS smoke-free by 2020, urging staff, patients and visitors to health service areas to quit smoking. Moreover, the government will grant the opportunity for training to all health professionals on ways to encourage patients to stop smoking.

On top of that, the general public will be given more information and advice regarding the safety and efficacy of electronic cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid.

Although the plan has been praised, some say more investment is required in order to truly reduce UK smoking rates.

Professor Parveen Kumar, the chair of the BMA board of science, commented: “If we’re to stop the 79,000 annual deaths in England attributed to smoking, smoking cessation services and tobacco control measures must be adequately funded. Yet local authorities are reducing smoking cessation budgets, merging services into unwieldy departments or cutting services altogether.

“Cuts to these highly cost-effective services will only increase health inequalities and demand on tomorrow’s GP surgeries and hospital wards.”

Overall adult smoking prevalence has dropped from 20.2% in 2011 to 15% – the lowest rate since records began. However, smoking still drains the economy of more than £11bn per year, including £2.5bn draining the NHS due to smoking-related health problems.

Simon Clark, the director of the smokers’ group Forest, says the government should “stop lecturing smokers” and said the Tobacco Control Plan should have put “education and choice ahead of prohibition and coercion”.

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