NHS smoking cessation services should be funded by a tax on the profits of tobacco manufacturers, a report by charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), and more than 120 other public health bodies has recommended.
The report, Smoking Still Kills, sets out a five-year strategy to reduce the prevalence of smoking in the UK population. It recommends a concerted effort to reduce the proportion of adult smokers in the UK to 13% by 2020 and to 9% in 2025. To achieve this, the report suggests that tobacco companies should contribute a share of their profits to public health programmes.
Peter Kellner, president of YouGov and chair of the report's editorial board, said: 'Investing in evidence-based measures that reduce smoking is highly cost effective; for example stop smoking services have been shown to be one of the most cost effective ways to improve people's health. Placing a levy on tobacco companies to fund such work is a win-win – saving both money and lives.'
The report also urges the creation of a government public health strategy for smoking, with the goal of reducing the UK's smoking rate to 5% by 2035. The report suggests that this could save as many as 70,000 to 80,000 lives each year, as well as saving the NHS over £2 bilion
Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, said: 'By cutting smoking rates further, we can reduce the rate of heart attacks almost immediately, and deliver longer term benefits by reducing cardiovascular conditions that cause so much suffering and cost the country dearly.'
The report comes at a time of concern over the funding of public health services, including smoking cessation. The government recently announced that £200 million will be cut from local authority public health budgets, which will affect the funding of services for smokers.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said: 'To cut local authorities' public health budgets at this time would be pinching pennies to waste pounds. The government has already consulted on a levy on the tobacco industry to pay for the damage it does, the time to go ahead is now with the money raised funding prevention and public health.'
In related news, the Welsh Assembly have voted to ban the use of e-cigarettes in enclosed public spaces such as restaurants and pubs.