A packet of cigarettes will cost smokers £15 if proposals in an NHS-backed study are implemented. The Independent Cancer Taskforce has suggested six “strategic priorities” for the government to make “substantial improvements” in cancer care in England with the hike in cigarette prices a key recommendation.
The taskforce, which was set up by NHS England in January to develop the next cancer strategy, said that with survival rates also increasing each year more and more people were living with cancer. The report sets out proposals for how patient care can be transformed both during and after treatment.
With more than four in 10 cases of cancer caused by aspects of people’s lifestyles that they have the ability to change, the report said the figures showing that nearly one in five adults still smokes and a third drink too much alcohol were “stark”.
Currently, a packet of 20 cigarettes costs about £9.60 and tobacco is seen as being the main cause of cancer, followed by obesity. The report suggests the 50 per cent price hike could be put into place by 2020.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt hinted he would support the recommendations in order to achieve the government’s ambition to make the NHS ‘the best in the world at cancer care’. He told the Daily Express: “I would like to thank Harpal Kumar and the Taskforce for their excellent recommendations, especially the focus on early diagnosis and how the NHS can be better at supporting people to live with and beyond cancer.”
Simon Clark, director of Forest, the smokers’ lobby group, disagreed. He said a tobacco levy would almost certainly be passed on to consumers and would hit those who can least afford a further increase in the price of tobacco. He said:
“A tobacco levy would probably lead to tobacco becoming even more expensive and would have the same result as raising the duty on tobacco.
“It will hit the elderly, the low paid and the unemployed hardest, and it will encourage criminals to flood the black market with cheap and sometimes counterfeit tobacco.
“That in turn will hit small convenience stores who will lose vital business.”
The government is expected to respond to the report and its recommendations after the summer recess.
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