Medical Professionals Online

CMO Calls for Tighter Controls on Tobacco Smuggling, UK

October 03, 2017

UK Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, today called for tighter controls on tobacco smuggling and cheap tobacco to further curb the massive toll of smoking-related illness and death.

Launching his fourth Annual Report On the State of Public Health, Sir Liam Donaldson has highlighted the need for tighter controls on the movement of tobacco across International borders and a clampdown on tobacco smuggling to reduce the health devastation caused by smoking.

Current estimates suggest that up to 25 per cent of all cigarettes and 75 per cent of all hand-rolling tobacco, consumed in England, has avoided UK taxes and duties. The illicit street price of a pack of a leading brand of cigarettes is 2.50 - the legal price is 4.89.

Sir Liam Donaldson said:

"Smuggled and cheap tobacco undermines health and health inequality goals by making tobacco widely available at much cheaper prices.

"Traditionally, taxes, duties and price increases on tobacco have reduced tobacco consumption and been highly effective as an additional discouragement but the availability of smuggled and cheap tobacco erodes these efforts to help people stop smoking.

"I would like to see closer co-operation between UK Revenue and Excise, and other EU member states, in tackling this problem.

"I have pushed hard on the need for action to create smoke-free public places and workplaces. I want this country to be alongside the best in the world in protecting their populations and future generations from tobacco.

The Chief Medical Officer is the UK Government's principal medical adviser. His Annual Reports have championed the need for action on key public health issues - as well as reported on progress made in tackling his previously highlighted concerns.

This year's report draws attention to: the potential to improve the nation's health by influencing food purchasing in the public sector, the requirement for more consistent standards of care in the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the need to achieve faster compliance with patient safety alerts and the growing concern around the increasing prevalence of gastroschisis - a major congenital anomaly affecting the abdominal wall.

Sir Liam Donaldson, said:

"The public sector spends nearly 2 billion a year on food and catering for hospitals, schools, prisons, Meals on Wheels and the armed forces. The sector serves over 1.8 billion meals a year - they need to be healthier and more nutritionally balanced. The public sector should use its huge financial muscle, as a purchaser and procurer, to improve the nation's health.

"COPD affects over 3 million people a year in the UK and results in 30,000 deaths - which is almost double the European average. I want to see a greater focus on COPD by local health services and a consistent standard of care for patients across the country. I recommend a new National Service framework.

"I have examined experience in implementing four National safety alerts. The uptake by local NHS services was, in places, slow and inconsistent. I have identified action to ensure quicker and more comprehensive compliance with alerts in the future.

"Finally, the number of cases of gastroschisis has almost trebled in the last ten years - particularly in babies born to young mothers. I want to see more research into the underlying causes and investigation into the reasons behind the recent increase in number of cases. I also want to see a widening in the geographical coverage of the current congenital anomaly registries - a precious natural resource and vital tool in combating life-threatening and handicapping conditions at birth."

The Chief Medical Officer's Annual Report 2004 is available for download at dh/cmo and further hard copies can be obtained by calling Department of Health Publications on 08701 555-455.

For further information, MEDIA ENQUIRIES ONLY, please contact Brenda Irons-Roberts, Department of Health media centre, on 020 7210 5649.

GNNREF: 118314 - Issued by : DOH Press Office