UK government to announce new plans on tobacco
Stopping parents lighting up at home, or in cars, if they are with their children will form part of an aggressive new anti-smoking campaign to be launched by ministers this week.
The Government will also announce it plans to go ahead with a ban on all advertising on tobacco packaging. That measure would mean in future cigarettes could only be purchased under the counter in packets. They would be marked only with government health warnings.
At the heart of the drive is a new commitment to halve the number of adults who smoke by 2020. The current Department of Health target, which they claim to be on target to meet, is to reduce smoking prevalence to one in five people by next year.
To reduce that to one in 10 a series of measures designed to stop young people taking up the habit will be unveiled.
Central to it will be an aggressive marketing campaign that aims to persuade parents to stop smoking in front of impressionable young children.
Other measures will include:
- a commitment to continued real-terms increases in tobacco duty to keep the price of cigarettes rising;
- more stringent implementation of guidelines on smoking in films and television programmes;
- new controls on the marketing of tobacco accessories;
- further investment in accessible and effective NHS "stop smoking" services; and
- imposing a total ban on smoking and the sale of cigarettes within the London 2012 Olympic site.
A similar ban on parents smoking is in place in several American states and cities. Other US authorities have made smoke-free cars and homes a condition of allowing people to foster children.
In Britain, calls to ban parents smoking in cars have been led by Professor Terence Stephenson, President of the Royal College of Paediatric Health.
He said recently: “Why on earth would you light up in your car whilst your children are sitting quite happily in the back? On the assumption that you wouldn't pass the packet round and invite the kids to light up, why make them breathe tobacco smoke at all?
“You can't inflict this on your colleagues at work any more. Why should we treat our children's health as a lower priority than our employees?”
Labour will be accused by some of introducing more “nanny state” rules.
Prof Stephenson added: “If you act to make people safer, you get accused of introducing the nanny state. If you let people make their own decisions, you get accused of neglect.
“It's extremely sensible, common sense - but is seen by some as too draconian and the trickling of nanny state rules again.”
Whitehall sources say that a new law has not been ruled out, despite nervousness among some ministers. Prof Stephenson’s views are said to be “persuasive", one source said.
The source pointed to how opinion changed on an all-out ban on smoking in public places. Despite fearing a public backlash, MPs voted through a complete ban three years ago.
The Government previously consulted on a packaging ban in 2008, but shied away from its introduction due to fears about its impact on the tobacco industry
However, it is understood that Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, still has reservations over some of the measures.
While Lord Mandelson remains opposed to the measure, Andy Burnham, Health Secretary, wants to press ahead, subject to an evaluation of the likely impact.
Mr Burnham would point to statistics that show while there are 2.4 million fewer smokers in Britain than when Labour came to power in 1997, more than 80,000 people still die in England every year, and the annual costs to the NHS are estimated to be £2.7 billion.
Unlike the build-up to the ban on smoking in public places there are no longer champions within the Cabinet prepared to speak up for smokers.
John Reid, who held several Cabinet posts under Tony Blair, once remarked that for many working class people a cigarette was one of the few things to look forward too. Gordon Brown gave up his 30-a-day habit in 1982.