Health lobby seeks more restrictions on tobacco industry

File photo dated 18/06/07 of cigarettes as British tobacco manufacturers are fuelling the black market by deliberately over-supplying their products to European countries, MPs have warned. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday October 10, 2013. UK firms are supplying more tobacco to European countries than their markets need and is then finding its way back into the UK market without tax being paid, costing the country £1.9 billion a year, the Committee of Public Accounts said. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), Britain's tax office, is failing to tackle firms who "turn a blind eye to the avoidance of UK tax" through over-supply, which in some countries in 2011 exceeded demand by 240%, the Committee added. Under supply chain legislation, tobacco firms have a legal obligation not to aid smuggling but HMRC has not fined any UK tobacco manufacturer for over-supplying products and has issued only one letter of warning. See PA story POLITICS Tobacco. Photo credit should read: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Health campaigners in England have called for radical restrictions on the tobacco industry in a report that lays fresh foundations for a new wave of antismoking regulations.

The report calls for a levy on tobacco companies, higher tax rises on cigarettes, and a new license for all retailers who want to sell tobacco as antismoking campaigners build on the success of plain packaging legislation passed this year.

“Smoking Still Kills”, which is published by Ash and funded by Cancer Research and the British Heart Foundation, follows a similar report in 2008 that called for a series of tough regulations that have since been passed.

Plain packaging, a ban on tobacco displays in shops, above inflation tax rises, a ban on cigarette vending machines and a ban on smoking in cars when children are present were all in Ash’s report seven years ago and have become law.

Now the antismoking charity is pushing for more stringent controls on tobacco.

“No one can say that the job of tobacco control is done when millions of smokers in England face the risks of smoking-related illness and premature death, hundreds of young people start smoking every day, and smoking remains the principal cause of health inequalities,” the report says.

The centrepiece of the new report is a levy on tobacco companies, which is called a “Tobacco Companies Obligation” and would be based on the volume of each company’s sales.

A levy would fall hardest on Bristol-based Imperial Tobacco, the largest seller of cigarettes in the UK with a 44 per cent market share, and Japan Tobacco International, which has a 41 per cent market share.

The money raised would be used to fund smoking cessation services, and Ash is seeking a change to the law to prevent tobacco companies passing on the cost of the levy to consumers in the form of higher prices, which they have said they would do.

Last year, the Labour party called for a levy and the previous Conservative-led coalition government launched a consultation. However, in the March Budget, George Osborne, the chancellor, kicked the issue into the long grass.

The report, which says warning smokers away from ecigarettes “would be a disaster for them and for public health”, comes a day after the Welsh government said it would ban the use of the products in enclosed public places from 2017.

Other measures proposed in the report include a 5 per cent tax rise on cigarettes each year above inflation, which is significantly higher than the current tax escalator of 2 per cent above inflation.

A ban on smoking in prisons, which are currently exempt from the ban on smoking in public places, and during theatrical performances are also proposed in the report, as well as prohibiting smoking in all cars and vehicles, not only when children are present.

Giles Roca, director-general of the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, said the proposals were “simply a case of an antismoking professional lobby group trying to find new ways to attack smokers and a legitimate industry”.

“Aside from the unwarranted intrusion on individual freedoms, this continued drive to over-regulate the UK tobacco market will simply create greater opportunities for organised crime groups involved in smuggling on a massive scale,” he said.


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