By Poppy Askham
City of Durham MP Mary Foy has tabled a series of new anti-smoking proposals, which include allowing the Health Secretary to raise the legal age for smoking to 21 and printing “smoking kills” on individual cigarettes.
The Labour MP submitted an amendment to the health and care bill in a bid to hold the government to account for its goal for England to be ‘smoke-free’ by 2030. To achieve this ‘smoke-free’ status the proportion of adults smoking in England would have to fall to just 5%.
The Government first stated its 2030 ambition in July 2019; Scotland’s goal is 2034, whilst Wales and Northern Island are yet to set a date.
Foy’s measures would also allow the Government to bring in a new levy on tobacco company profits, which would be used to fund support services for those attempting to quit smoking.
“We know that cigarettes are cancer sticks and kill half the people who use them so I hope that health warnings on cigarettes would deter people from being tempted to smoke in the first place, especially young people”, Foy stated.
The proportion of adult smokers in the UK recently fell to 14.1%, the lowest figure on record and amongst the lowest in Europe. But Cancer Research UK has warned that smoking rates tend to be higher in more deprived areas and that these communities are unlikely to reach ‘smoke-free’ status until the mid-2040s at the current rate of progress.
According to Foy the Government currently risks falling short of its goal unless “bold action” is taken.
“The Government have been unsuccessful so far in reducing the inequality gap in smoking and need to redouble their efforts to achieve a smoke-free 2030 for all”, Foy told MPs in a parliamentary debate this summer.
Smoking rates in County Durham are above the national average, sitting at 17%, a figure that rises to 27% amongst those with routine and manual occupations. The percentage of mothers that smoke during pregnancy (16.8%) is also substantially higher than the national rate (10.4%).
Foy told MPs that “smokers in the North-East lose around £600 million because of unemployment and reduced income due to smoking”.
Foy, who currently sits as vice-chair on the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health, describes the introduction of anti-smoking legislation as “an issue close to my heart”. She previously chaired the Gateshead Tobacco Control Alliance.
Cancer Research UK and the Royal College of Physicians have welcomed the amendment. Foy has also received support in Parliament from Conservative MP Bob Blackman and the shadow secretaries for health and justice, Jonathan Ashworth and Alex Cunningham.
Image: Kieran McCarthy/Creative Commons