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Smokefree 2030: Independent review published

A new review has been published setting out a raft of recommendations to support the government to meet its smokefree ambition by 2030 and tackle health disparities to level up the health of the nation.

Earlier this year Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid commissioned an independent review into ways the government can help more people quit smoking and live healthier lives, led by Dr Javed Khan OBE, former CEO of children’s charity Barnardo’s.

Almost 6 million people in England smoke, and tobacco remains the single biggest cause of preventable illness and death.

Tackling tobacco use and supporting smokers to quit would help prevent 15 types of cancers – including lung cancer, throat cancer and acute myeloid leukaemia – a key objective of the NHS Long Term Plan. Recent data shows 1 in 4 deaths from all cancers were estimated to be from smoking.

The independent review found smoking causes a disproportionate burden on the most disadvantaged families and communities – at its most extreme, smoking prevalence is 4.5 times higher in Burnley than in Exeter.

Smokers in the most deprived areas of the country spend a higher proportion of their income on tobacco. The average smoker in the North East spends over 10% of their income on tobacco, compared to just over 6% in the South East. 

What are the interventions?

In an attempt to protect the population from the harms of smoking, the 4 key interventions highlighted by Dr Khan in the review are:

  • increased investment of an additional £125 million per year in smokefree 2030 policies, with an extra £70 million per year ringfenced for stop smoking services
  • raising the age of sale from 18 by 1 year every year, until eventually no one can buy a tobacco product in this country
  • promotion of vapes as an effective ‘swap to stop’ tool to help people quit smoking
  • improving prevention in the NHS so smokers are offered advice and support to quit at every interaction they have with health services

Other interventions recommended in the report include:

  • a tobacco licence for retailers to limit the availability of tobacco across the country
  • a rethink of the way cigarette sticks and packets look to reduce their appeal
  • a mass media campaign to encourage smokers to quit

Leader of the independent review into smoking, Dr Javed Khan OBE, said:

In this review I have looked at our current smokefree initiatives, along with the very best practice from around the world. I would like to thank the many valued voices that have made key contributions towards shaping this bold and ambitious report.
Without immediate and sustained action, England will miss the smokefree target by many years and most likely decades.
The review has been supported by an array of civil society organisations including Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and Cancer Research UK. Chief Executive of ASH, Deborah Arnott said:
Javed Khan’s report sets out an ambitious vision, combining a call on government to increase investment in tobacco control with tougher regulations, both of which are essential to achieve a smokefree 2030.

The findings of the independent review led by Dr Javed Khan OBE will be considered and a response published as part of the government’s Health Disparities White Paper.

Final thought

The independent review is a welcomed step to achieving the important ambition of smokefree by 2030. Given healthcare services in the UK are still reeling from the pandemic and over six million are waiting for treatment, the Government must take a more proactive view on public health issues – including prevention of smoking-related illnesses, obesity and others.

Whether additional steps will be taken adequately on this matter is unclear. However, the public and healthcare sector can hardly be hopeful given the Government’s U-turn on obesity in recent weeks.

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