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Forest attacks proposed new tobacco control measures

Wed 20th October, 2021

Forest has criticised a series of amendments tabled by Labour MP Mary Foy, chair of the APPG on Smoking and Health, in response to the Government's Health and Care Bill.

If accepted they would give the health secretary the power to ensure a health warning is put on every individual cigarette, get a health warning card put in every packet of cigarettes, bring in a "polluter pays" new levy on tobacco firms to fund public health measures, raise the legal age of buying cigarettes from 18 to 21, ban flavouring being used in tobacco products, and stop manufacturers of e-cigarettes from using branding which is attractive to children.

Simon Clark, director of Forest, said: "These stale and tired ideas have been around for years. The reason they haven't been adopted in the UK is because there is no evidence that they will significantly reduce smoking rates or discourage young people from smoking.

"Everyone is aware of the health risks of smoking. There are huge, impossible-to-miss health warnings on every pack of cigarettes including grotesque images of smoking-related diseases. 

"Tobacco is sold in standardised packaging and banned from display in shops. Enough is enough. If adults still choose to smoke that is a matter for them, not for government, and that choice must be respected without further regulation that restricts choice and treats adults like children."

He added: "Introducing a levy on tobacco companies would disproportionately hurt less well off smokers because it will inevitably be passed on to consumers who already pay punitive rates of taxation on tobacco.

"Outlawing the sale of tobacco to anyone under 21 won’t stop young people smoking. It will simply infantilise young adults and drive the sale of tobacco underground, by-passing legitimate retailers and enriching criminals who won’t stop to ask for proof of age. 

"Far from protecting younger consumers it will expose many more to illicit and counterfeit tobacco. For some it may even make smoking cool again.”

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