Major smoking law change and tobacco cost hike could be announced TOMORROW

Sajid Javid confronted on 7.5 hour NHS wait time

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Raising the smoking age to 21 and new taxes are among measures which may be unveiled on Thursday, June 9, after the release of a delayed review into the habit. The review has been carried out by anti-smoking Tsar Javed Khan, who is a former chief executive of children’s charity Barnardo’s.

The Government is under pressure to curb smoking after an additional 600,000 people aged under 30 picked up the habit during the Covid pandemic. This represents a 25 percent rise.

Mr Khan warned in an interview that the UK’s target to cut smokers to five percent of the population by 2030 would not be achieved without the Government stepping in to reduce sales.

However, the Guardian reported that raising the age from 18 and increasing taxes have been met with scepticism across Government.

A Whitehall source told The Sun there was an option for ministers not to accept the review’s findings.

Another source said that as a “general point of principle, the view has always been that 18 is widely recognised as the age of adulthood”.

Chief Medical Officer, Sir Chris Whitty, Health Minister Maggie Throup and Shadow Health Minister Andrew Gwynne are expected to attend the review launch due on Thursday.

An insider said: “Sajid Javid is interested in health inequality and he is interested in tackling public health issues, but the Government is in hock to right-wing MPs.

“On tobacco, they are still nervous about some kind of nanny state attack.”

News of the possible changes comes as a separate review concluded that more must be done to help smokers in hospital kick the habit.

The British Thoracic Society’s (BTS) audit of hospital-based services which help people quit smoking found that little progress has been made to help smokers who are in hospital get the help they need to quit.

Dr Matt Evison, BTS clinical audit lead, said: “This audit unfortunately shows that we are still struggling to make meaningful progress in helping patients quit smoking at a national level.

“While the results are disappointing today, I am looking at this audit as the start – the baseline against which we now need to improve.”

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Review authors warned that opportunities have been missed to help improve the health of sick smokers and reduce premature deaths.

The review examined data on 120 hospitals from across the UK and found that one in five hospitals still offer dedicated smoking areas for patients.

It also found that only nine percent of smokers received an assessment with a smoking specialist while in hospital while only five percent were provided with a quit aid.

The review noted that of 2,400 smokers admitted to hospital, just one was given a vaping kit.

The authors said just three percent of people who smoke admitted to hospital attended a follow-up service to check on their attempt to quit after they were sent home from hospital.

Less than one percent were recorded to be “successfully abstinent post discharge”, the authors wrote.

They also suggested hospital staff are “ill prepared to support current smokers in their efforts to quit” with only half of trusts offering frontline staff regular training in helping people stop smoking.

An NHS spokesperson said: “Smoking remains one of the biggest causes of poor health, which is why in 2019 the NHS Long Term Plan made significant commitments to support our colleagues in local government to help people to quit.

“Despite the significant pressure the pandemic has placed on hospital teams, the NHS is on track to meet our Long Term Plan commitment to offer tobacco dependency service to every hospital inpatient by 2023/24, as well as rolling out similar services for pregnant women and people with serious mental illnesses to reduce health inequalities.”

There are about 5.5 million smokers in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics.

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