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Government says England to be smoke-free by 2030

By JONATHAN POWELL in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-07-25 09:27


The United Kingdom government is aiming to end smoking across England by 2030 with a range of measures to prevent avoidable illnesses.

The government will also promote physical activity, sufficient sleep, and target those at risk of diabetes in a policy to reduce poor health.

A government paper released on Monday night titled Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s, outlines its plans to tackle preventable ill health in the near future and to make smoked tobacco "obsolete".

"Thanks to our concerted efforts on smoking, we now have one of the lowest smoking rates in Europe with fewer than one in six adults smoking," the document reads.

"Yet, for the 14 percent of adults who still smoke, it's the main risk to health."

The government states that it is "setting an ambition to go 'smoke-free' in England by 2030".

"This includes an ultimatum for industry to make smoked tobacco obsolete by 2030, with smokers quitting or moving to reduced risk products like e-cigarettes."

However, the publication of the paper drew controversy as it was published just hours before Boris Johnson's election as the new Conservative leader.

Johnson has already made it clear that he is against imposing "sin taxes" on food and drink products.

Cancer Research UK stated that, with the gap in life expectancy between the richest and the poorest widening, and because smoking rates are highest among the most vulnerable in society, tackling smoking is the single best thing to reduce that gap.

"We know stop smoking services, which offer smokers a combination of pharmacotherapy and behavioral support, are the most successful way to support smokers to stop," said Kruti Shrotri, Cancer Research UK's policy manager.

Slashed budgets have jeopardized vital public health services, and since 2015, the public health budget has fallen by 700 million pounds ($876 million) with funding for wider tobacco control measures and stop smoking services among the worst hit.

According to the Department of Health and Social Care, new technologies such as genomics and artificial intelligence are poised to help create a "new prevention model" through services such as pre-natal diagnosis of rare diseases.

The government said that in the 2020s, rather than "passive recipients" of care, people will be "co-creators of their own health". However the challenge is to "equip them with skills, knowledge and confidence" needed for them to help themselves.

However, doctors and health experts claim government plans are too weak to deal with problems such as obesity, smoking and alcohol misuse that are claiming tens of thousands of lives a year.

The British Medical Association said the paper should have included plans to introduce minimum unit pricing of alcohol and legally binding limits on air pollution.

Experts criticized the package of measures as inadequate, given the number of people dying avoidably from cancer, heart attacks and strokes linked to smoking and bad diet.

"With health inequalities in England widening and life expectancy improvements stalling, this green paper amounts to a missed opportunity. Perhaps unsurprisingly at a time of political uncertainty, the government has stepped back from the bold action required," said Jo Bibby, the director of health at think-tank the Health Foundation.

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