Government urged to raise cigarette tax above inflation

In collaboration with the Press Association

A coalition of health bodies is urging the Government to introduce a five per cent above inflation tax rise on cigarettes in the upcoming Budget.

“The price of tobacco plays a major role in the number of people who smoke. The cheaper tobacco is, the more smokers there are" - George Butterworth, Cancer Research UK

The call marks today’s No Smoking Day campaign following a poll of over 2,000 ex-smokers by the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

The online survey found that 42 per cent of ex-smokers support the tax move that’s predicted to help over 100,000 extra smokers quit and save nearly 480 additional lives in its first year.

George Butterworth, Cancer Research UK's tobacco control manager said that price has a major bearing on the amount of people who smoke - the cheaper it is, the more smokers there are.

Mr Butterworth added: "But, although raising the price by increasing taxes is an effective way the Government can reduce smoking rates, it's one that must be used as part of wider tobacco control efforts that includes providing support to smokers to quit."

Nearly half (46 per cent) of ex-smokers polled admitted they now regretted how much they had spent on the habit. And according to Mr Butterworth, the majority of smokers and ex-smokers regret ever taking up the habit, emphasising the need to prevent new smokers starting and to support those looking to quit.

“Plain, standardised packaging will reduce the appeal of tobacco to young people and give millions of children one less reason to start. We urge the Government to introduce standard packs as soon as possible,” he added.

The proposed tax rise, which comes a week before the Budget is announced, is backed by 80 health and welfare groups, as well as directors of public health bodies in the UK, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies.

A further push for an additional 10 per cent increase in tax above inflation on hand-rolled tobacco (HRT) has been included in an attempt to align the cost of HRT with more expensive manufactured cigarettes.

Simon Gillespie, Chief Executive at the BHF said: "This message comes from people who've managed to quit smoking themselves.”

“We hope their voice and their efforts will not go unnoticed by Ministers, who also have Big Tobacco whispering in their ear."

Copyright Press Association 2014