WHAT IS DISCUSSED IN THIS ARTICLE
Is Smoke Free 2030 going to happen?
The government set out a clear pathway back in 2019, for England to become a “Smoke Free” country by the year 2030. This means they want 5% or less of the adult population in the country being smokers, down from the 30%+ what it is today.
However, independent reports that have looked into the likelihood of this happening have not been very positive, with some estimating it will be 2045 before this objective is achieved, unless there is more action done by parliament and the government to make their goal a realistic and achievable one. I’m going to look at what suggestions have been made and whether or not there has been any movement on them to get things moving in the right direction.
What the government set out in their Smoke Free England 2030 pledge
The government made a pledge and set out a clear pathway that they want England to be a Smoke Free country by the year 2030. This would be done by them working with and heavily supporting NHS England, to ensure any hospital patient that was admitted who smoked would be offered help and guidance to quit smoking, as well as bolstering the Stop Smoking services that are spread around the country that help people quit.
They also hinted towards the introduction of a fee paid by tobacco manufacturers that would go directly into funding the above mentioned. And their main priority was to stop young people smoking from the already high number that it currently sits at.
So are they getting things moving in the right direction 3 years on? Not quite…
The Khan Report
Dr Javed Khan OBE was appointed to carry out an independent review earlier this year on the government’s “Smoke Free 2030” road map that they set out, and the report of the review was pretty damning and caused great for concern that this objective will not be reached by 2030 and miss by quite some way.
The forecast was made that this objective would not be achieved by 2037 in privileged areas, and 2044 in less deprived areas which is a huge miss. Dr Khan said the government needs to step in and up their input in crucial areas to ensure that this objective is reached. Dr Khan set out some “critical recommendations” to the government and what they could do to help make this target a more achievable one for the date they originally set out.
There was a huge sense of urgency pushed forward from Dr Khan for the government to increase investment in all areas necessary that are involved with people quitting smoking. The suggestion of £125 million per year to every sector that the government had mentioned in their original plan would help things along greatly. This would primarily go towards the NHS to help along with the patients admitted to hospital, as well as the stop smoking services who are under heavy strain already. Dr Khan said that if the government can’t foot this bill, it should be moved to the manufacturers of tobacco to fund as per the governments original suggestion.
The state of Stop Smoking Services in England
Stop Smoking services in England offer free guidance, counselling, support and advice to people who are looking to quit smoking, and these services are run by a team of experts that specialise in the field of helping people quit smoking.
However, there are not enough of these services available in England to cater for the amount of people wanting to smoke. Currently, the ratio of services to people wanting to stop smoking is around one stop smoking service to 27,000 smokers who are wanting to quit. This is just impossible for stop smoking services being able to cater for all of these people and will likely result in people continuing to smoke.
More funding and backing from the government would be superb to see, so they can open more of these services, and bring the ratio number right down from where it currently is at today. It’s also reported that more deprived areas of the country have even less access to stop smoking services, and it’s in these areas that smoking prevalence is considerably higher than more privileged areas.
Dr Khan continued to make his critical recommendations suggesting that the legal smoking age is increased by one year every year until the 5% objective is reached, which I don’t really see as a positive move. Vaping must be promoted more in the correct channels, which I think has now started to see some traction with GPs and Stop Smoking services backing vaping and recommending it to their patients who are wanting to quit smoking.
And his final critical recommendation is that prevention of smoking within the NHS should be upped, but of course this can’t happen without the necessary funding to protect the NHS from footing the bill.
Members of Parliament are speaking up
Nearly every week, MPs have been asking questions to the powers that be on what is being done in the bid to make the Smoke Free 2030 target a realistically achievable one. And every week the same answers are giving which doesn’t give much hope that anything is actually being done with a sense of urgency to make this goal one that will be achieved before 2037, let alone 2030.
Rob Blackman MP has his say
Recently, Rob Blackman MP has penned an open letter to the government to have his say on the current state of affairs on England becoming Smoke Free. The letter makes for interesting reading, and I will analyse it below.
Blackman announces himself as an advocate for Britain to become a smoke free country since he was elected as an MP in 2010. He speaks about the impact smoking has had on his personal life, unfortunately losing both parents at young age to smoking related illnesses. So, this subject is something that hits home for him.
He goes on to speak about the ever-rising numbers of youth smokers in the country and wants this number to stop growing and getting people off cigarettes, or preventing them from starting to smoke at all. He follows on to speak about the cost to the NHS that smoking has on it every year, and that number sits at £12.9 billion a year, which is coming directly from the taxpayers’ pockets.
It’s not only the cost that will affect the NHS, it’s also increased waiting times for appointments from patients who are not smokers and resources being used to treat people who have fallen ill through smoking.
Mr Blackman goes on to discuss the above mentioned “Khan Report” and highlights that his findings are devastating towards the governments first objectives that were set out, and he backs the suggestion of the £125 million a year funding to the NHS from the government, which he says is a small price to pay when smoking is costing more than £12 billion every year to the NHS.
Fellow MPs have been asking questions to the powers that be in relation to what the government is actually doing, and the answers being provided seem very lacklustre and have no real weight behind them. And the answers have been near identical to every question asked across the last few months.
MPs have been asking questions in the House of Commons relating to the government’s “Smoke Free 2030” campaign, and the questions all circulate around what is actually being done by the government to combat youth smoking prevention, tobacco harm reduction, as well as protecting the NHS and increasing Stop Smoking services like they made in their pledge back in 2019.
The Secretary of State for Social and Health Care has been answering the questions and acknowledges the report from Dr Khan that was commissioned by themselves and admit they will take action based on his critical recommendations, however, gives absolutely no insight to when this will happen and what will actually happen which has been met with criticism from the people asking the questions, which is understandable really.
We’re now six months on from the review from Dr Khan and nothing really has been done, and no sense of urgency has been shown from the Government to make positive steps forward in the right direction to combat all these problems that the country is facing with smoking.
It concerns me with things going on in neighbouring countries banning flavours, and even suggesting a tax is bought in on e-cigarettes in some countries that the UK may adopt these regulations, but it will come down for time to tell what will happen.
I understand the cabinet itself has been under serious turmoil with the changing of the Prime Minster (twice) and a full shake up of the cabinet happening in a short space of time, but the best thing to get backing from the public would surely be to hit the ground running and getting the wheels in motion towards positive changes, instead it seems that the handbrake is on and the wheels don’t appear to be moving forward anytime soon.