The smokers’ lobby group, Forest, is urging the UK government to reject the ‘comprehensive package’ of anti-smoking measures published today by the NGO Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).
Forest’s director, Simon Clark, said a tobacco levy – one of many proposals being made – would almost certainly be passed on to consumers and would hit those who could least afford a further increase in the price of tobacco.
“A tobacco levy would probably lead to tobacco becoming even more expensive and would have the same result as raising the duty on tobacco,” he said.
“It will hit the elderly, the low paid and the unemployed hardest, and it will encourage criminals to flood the black market with cheap and sometimes counterfeit tobacco.
“That in turn will hit small convenience stores who will lose vital business.”
In criticising ASH’s five-year tobacco strategy, Smoking Still Kills, Forest said the government had gone far enough in its anti-smoking policies.
It said that a poll carried out on its behalf by Populus last week had found no strong desire in Great Britain for a further package of tobacco control measures following those concerning the tobacco display ban and standardized packaging. (Poll details are at: www.populus.co.uk)
Tackling smoking was considered to be the lowest in a list of 10 government priorities for the National Health Service, behind obesity and alcohol issues.
The poll found also that a majority of adults opposed bans on smoking in public parks and private vehicles without children.
And in a sign that voters now believe some regulations have gone too far, 57 percent would allow well-ventilated designated smoking rooms in pubs and private members’ clubs.
Significantly, said Clark, 75 percent were opposed to NGOs using taxpayers’ money to lobby government.
“Enough is enough,” said Clark. “Smoking isn’t good for you. We get it. But this is not just about health. Tobacco is a legal product and government must take into account other factors such as choice, personal responsibility and, dare I say it, pleasure.”