- strong ambitions to continue to reduce smoking prevalence
- strengthening the control of tobacco advertising and promotion by putting tobacco out of sight in shops and requiring plain packaging of tobacco products
- mass media and communications work to motivate smokers to quit and signpost sources of help
- continued funding for services to help smokers quit
- further reductions in affordability of tobacco by increasing tax above inflation and continuing to reduce illegal sales.
We are pleased to see that the Plan includes these evidence-based measures for driving down smoking prevalence including a commitment to consult on plain packaging. However, if the Plan is to be successful in driving down smoking prevalence then national level ambitions will have to be followed through by implementation at local level. This Plan is a strong signal to Council Health and Wellbeing Boards that tackling smoking needs to be top of their agenda.
Smoking requires strong intervention by government. It is an addiction of childhood and adolescence with the majority of smokers taking up the habit while still under 18. It is a highly addictive habit which many smokers find very difficult to quit. Half of all long-term smokers die early, half of these in middle age, with many more suffering years of disability as a result of their habit. Smoking kills more than 80,000 people each year in England, which is more than alcohol, obesity, road accidents and illegal drugs put together.
While the Government has not committed to implementing plain packaging, it has confirmed that it will launch a consultation on this measure, which we welcome. We are, however, disappointed to see that the government is putting back implementation of the legislation to prohibit display of tobacco in large shops by April 2012 and small shops by April 2015.
We urge the government to reconsider this decision in the light of recent allegations that campaigning against the legislation by retailer groups is funded by the tobacco industry. There is good evidence to show that tobacco displays encourage young people to take up smoking. Removing displays and putting tobacco in plain packs are both essential if we are to protect children from these significant remaining channels of tobacco advertising.
Telephone: 020 7235 2351 Extensions. 6298 or 6127
The Royal College of Psychiatrists is a member of the Smoke Free Action Coalition – a group of 170 organisations committed to promoting public health. The organisations came together initially to lobby for smokefree workplaces and are now committed to reducing the harm caused by tobacco more generally. For more information see: http://www.smokefreeaction.org.uk The RCPsych is also one of the organisations to have signed a letter to MPs urging them to support the tobacco point of sale legislation.