‘No more delay – we need a Tobacco Control Plan now’ urge local leaders

Swindon Borough Council has joined other local authorities from across England in calling for the Government to bring forward a new Tobacco Control Plan for England and to introduce a ‘polluter pays’ levy on tobacco manufacturers.

Published: Monday, 6th February 2023

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The Council’s Cabinet Member for Adults and Health, Councillor Brian Ford, has signed a letter with other councillors urging the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Rt Hon Steve Barclay MP, to bring about the changes.

It follows a new report from Cancer Research UK, which warns that the UK Government is almost a decade behind achieving its target for England to be smokefree by 2030 (defined as five per cent or fewer people smoking).

[1] As it stands, there is currently no Tobacco Control Plan for England; the previous plan expired at the end of 2022 [2] and the status of its replacement is unclear.

The letter, coordinated by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and Cancer Research UK, highlights the significant financial pressure smoking places on local councils and the NHS, with an estimated £3.6 billion spent on smoking-related health and social care in England every year. This is in addition to £13.2 billion each year in lost economic productivity resulting from premature death and disability caused by smoking. [3]

The letter’s authors argue that bold national action to reduce smoking rates would help to ease the pressure on household budgets and put money back into the pockets of struggling families. The average smoker who quits successfully will see their disposable income rise by around £2,450 a year. [4]

Smoking is the leading cause of death and cancer in the UK, leading to 125,000 deaths per year and around 150 new cancer cases every day. A ‘polluter pays’ levy on tobacco manufacturers would raise an estimated £700 million per year which could be used to fund measures to help people who smoke to quit. [5]

In Swindon alone, it is estimated that 12.5 per cent of the population over the age of 18 smoke (22,743 adults) and it kills approximately 233 people a year (around four deaths per week).

Smoking-related illness in Swindon is associated with 2,000 hospital admissions including 105,640 GP consultations and 60,230 GP prescriptions linked to conditions such as cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Councillor Brian Ford, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Adults and Heath, said: “I am supporting this call to action to bring forward a new Tobacco Control Plan for England and to introduce a ‘polluter pays’ levy on tobacco manufacturers. Smoking remains the biggest driver of health inequalities and has a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of residents in Swindon.

“We recognise that smoking is an addiction, not a choice and supporting ways for people to quit and creating a smokefree environment remains a priority.”

Cllr David Fothergill, Chair of the Local Government Association Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Local councils have led the way in supporting people to quit smoking over the last decade and we are determined to play our part in making smokefree 2030 a reality. But we need the Government to play its part and publish an ambitious new Tobacco Control Plan for England with the measures needed to end smoking.

“This should include a ‘polluter pays’ levy to make the tobacco companies pay to fix the damage they have caused by addicting generations of people to their lethal products.”


[1} Cancer Research UK. Smoking prevalence projections for England based on data to 2021. December 2022

[2] Department of Health and Social Care. Smoke-free generation: tobacco control plan for England. July 2017

[3] ASH Ready Reckoner 2022

[4] Calculations of the average spend per smoker in the UK on cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco in 2022 by Landman economics. The figure includes both duty paid and illicit Calculations are based on national datasets including the Annual Population Survey of Smoking Prevalence, HMRC data on duty paid and illicit tobacco from HMRC, and NEMS survey data on average spend on illicit tobacco.

[5] Delivering a Smokefree 2030: The All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health recommendations for the Tobacco Control Plan 2021. June 2021.

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