The former UK health minister Paul Burstow has called on the government to impose a levy on tobacco manufacturers and use the funds raised on research aimed at cutting smoking rates in areas where tobacco sales are highest, according to a PoliticsHome story.
Burstow was quoted as saying that with the number of people quitting smoking through the National Health Service’s (NHS) stop smoking services down by 19 percent last year, it was clear that smokers needed more help to quit.
Burstow said that he was bringing before parliament a bill with cross party support calling for government research into a levy on the basis of tobacco sales, and into how the money raised could be used to cut smoking rates.
The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement last year had announced that a levy on tobacco manufacturers and importers would be considered, and the opposition Labour Party had supported the idea.
Burstow said that last week’s budget statement had confirmed that the consultation on this matter was continuing. But he said that his bill went further in calling for research into how best the funds could be used to reduce the harm caused by tobacco.
Independent research has apparently indicated that £500 million could be raised from tobacco sales.
With the costs to society of smoking in England estimated at almost £13 billion a year, including a £2 billion annual cost to the NHS for treating diseases caused by smoking, it was time to get serious about tobacco companies’ responsibilities, Burstow said.
Drawing a levy on the enormously profitable sales of tobacco manufacturers was one way to work towards the ambitions of the NHS Five Year Forward View and would be a rallying cry to get serious about prevention.
It would put a significant dent in the funding gap facing the health service, and, critically, it would save lives.