Tobacco firms could also be forced to pay a “polluter” tax, according to a Government-commissioned review. Another radical idea is for the minimum age at which people can buy a tobacco product to go up by a year annually, until the point where no one can buy them.
Implementing a ban on smoking in beer gardens was not ruled out yesterday by Downing Street officials.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “I’m not going to jump ahead and start opining on different recommendations.
“This is a detailed piece of work which needs to be carefully considered and then we will set out our view.” Dr Javed Khan led the study into how England can become smoke-free.
Among his 15 recommendations, he issued four “critical must-dos”, including an extra £125million per year to fund the support that smokers need to help them quit.
The report said: “If the Government cannot fund this themselves, they should ‘make the polluter pay’ and either introduce a tobacco industry levy, or generate additional corporation tax, with immediate effect.”
The second “must-do” is to increase the age of sale from 18 by one year every year, until no one can buy cigarettes.
The third call is to promote vaping as an “effective tool to help people to quit smoking tobacco.” Finally, prevention “must become part of the NHS’s DNA”, Dr Khan said, adding the health service must do more to support smokers to quit.
The Government is set to miss its target to make England smoke-free by 2030, which means five per cent or fewer adults smoke. Currently, almost six million people still light up.
Dr Khan put the annual cost to society of the habit at around £17billion – with £2.4billion spent by the NHS. He said: “If we do nothing different, smoking will cause over half a million more deaths by 2030.”
The report was widely welcomed by health professionals.
Professor Sir Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, said: “The tobacco industry makes its massive profits from getting young people addicted to smoking, something that will kill or severely disable many of them.”