News & Comment

Poll: Little support for further increases in tobacco taxation

Mon 14th March, 2016

A Populus survey of more than 2,000 people carried out last week found that only 24 per cent of people in Britain think tobacco duty is too low. In contrast 38 per cent think it’s too high and 31 per cent think it’s about right.

Conducted on behalf of smokers' group Forest, the poll also found that 66 per cent of people want a review of the way smoking cessation services are funded.

Forest said a demand by tobacco control groups for higher taxation to fund smoking cessation services was “economic madness” because research had shown that the numbers using stop smoking services in England have “plummeted” by 51 per cent since 2010/11.

Other poll findings:

– Only 18 per cent of the public believe that tackling smoking is a very important priority for the NHS. Smoking came second bottom out of a list of ten priorities.

– Asked to rate priorities for the NHS, respondents said investing in new doctors and nurses was the highest priority. Other issues that rated more important than tackling smoking included investing in new hospitals and infrastructure, addressing care for the elderly, addressing response times at Accident and Emergency, and addressing mental health services.

– Only 14 per cent of the public believe that tackling smoking is a very important priority for local government. The issue also came second bottom in a list of ten priorities for local government.

– Asked to rate priorities for local government, respondents rated tackling crime and anti-social behaviour as the highest priority. Other issues that were rated more important than tackling smoking included investing in road and pavements, improving job prospects, investing in street cleanliness, and improving facilities for young people.

– 61 per cent of the public believe it is very important that the government commissions an independent review of the impact of forthcoming tobacco control measures, including the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive and standardised packaging, before proceeding with further measures to control the sale and consumption of tobacco.

Simon Clark, director of Forest, said:

“In the last parliament tobacco duty increased by 40 per cent and the total tax on the cheapest cigarettes in the UK is now a staggering 88 per cent.

“Smokers have had enough and the general public is behind them. Only 24 per cent of adults think tobacco duty is too low.

“Around a third believe it’s about right and 38 per cent think it’s too high.

“Increasing taxation to fund smoking cessation services would be economic madness.

“With e-cigarettes replacing more traditional and less successful quit smoking aids, why pour even more money into services a declining number of people are using?

He added:

“Forest has repeatedly urged the Government to assess the impact of tobacco control measures on all stakeholders, including consumers.

“It is significant that Populus also found that 61 per cent of the public think it is very important that the Government commissions an independent review of the impact of forthcoming tobacco control measures before proceeding with further measures to control the sale and consumption of tobacco.”

Download our briefing paper, Tobacco Control: Taxing the Public's Patience.

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