House of Commons Library

Tobacco control policy overview

Published Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Government’s new tobacco control plan was published in 2017, and seeks to reduce smoking overall and target this inequality in smoking rates. The ambitions in the plans include reducing smoking in adults, young people and pregnant women, ensuring a parity of esteem for those with mental health problems, and supporting evidence based use of innovative technologies to reduce smoking, such as e-cigarettes (now the most popular method for quitting smoking in England ).

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Smoking prevalence is reducing, with the biggest drop amongst adults seen in 2016 in England. Public Health England have reported that the quitting success rate for the first half of 2017 is the highest for at least a decade.[1]  However, smoking continues to be the leading cause of preventable deaths- in 2015, 16% of all deaths in people aged 35 or over in England (79,100 deaths) were estimated as being attributable to smoking. 

Smoking rates are higher in poorer communities; the Department of Health reports that smoking accounts for almost half the difference in life expectancy between the richest and poorest in society.[2] 

The Government’s new tobacco control plan was published in 2017, and seeks to reduce smoking overall and target this inequality in smoking rates. The ambitions in the plans include reducing smoking in adults, young people and pregnant women, ensuring a parity of esteem for those with mental health problems, and supporting evidence based use of innovative technologies to reduce smoking, such as e-cigarettes (now the most popular method for quitting smoking in England[3]). 

Beyond this, there have been a number of tobacco control measures in recent years, which have resulted in the introduction of standardised packaging for tobacco products, an extension on the ban on smoking in public places to cars with children present, and a tobacco display ban in all shops.

This briefing paper provides a summary on the tobacco control plan, tobacco control policies and smoking cessation services.

A number of other Commons Library briefing papers provide more information on specific policies and issues:

[1]     PHE, Highest smoking quit success rates on record, 21 September 2017

[2]     Department of Health, Towards a smoke-free generation: tobacco control plan for England 2017, July 2017

[3]     PHE, Highest smoking quit success rates on record, 21 September 2017

Commons Briefing papers CBP-8116

Authors: Sarah Barber; Antony Seely

Topics: Health education and preventive medicine, Health services, Taxation

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