ASH Wales Cymru welcomes the UK Government’s announcement in today’s Budget to increase tax on cigarettes by 2% above inflation whilst also raising the tax on hand rolling tobacco to 5% above inflation.
Tax rises need to be heavily supported by investment in stop smoking services to assist those wanting to quit. Suzanne Cass, Chief Executive, ASH Wales, said: “By annually raising the taxes on tobacco, it creates a financial incentive not to smoke. This is especially important among young people who are the tobacco industry’s next generation of customers.”
There was no word on a levy on the tobacco industry to fund quit smoking services as called for by Cancer Research UK – a levy which could have raised £500 million pounds. Suzanne Cass continued, “Our youth project The Filter Wales has been delivering stop smoking and prevention services to young people across the country for three years. Demand for our services, especially for our cessation programme Commit to Quit, is high but funding is limited. We believe that funding for these prevention and cessation services should come from a direct levy on the tobacco industry instead of squeezing more resources out of a health service which is already under pressure.”
Any rise on taxes – whether it’s on the tobacco industry or on consumers – needs to be coupled with investment in tackling the serious issue of illegal tobacco. The illegal tobacco market makes up 15% of all tobacco sales in Wales, the highest in the UK. These cheap products make it easier for children to start smoking, as it is sold at pocket money prices and by-pass age-restriction laws.
The Home Office is set to receive £31m to create a specialised group of border and intelligence officials who’ll intercept and seize illicit tobacco products, protecting over £100m of tax revenue over four years – a move supported by ASH Wales.