The control of the sale and use of tobacco is an important public health matter not only for those individuals who use it but for all around them. Specialist support and Stop Smoking Services are crucial in helping individuals to quit smoking and lead a healthier lifestyle. I am pleased to have played my part in bringing forward the legislation which means that smoking in cars with children is now illegal.
I have long supported the establishment of a new tobacco control plan. After 18 months of delays, the government published its updated strategy in July. The plan holds out the possibility of creating a smoke-free society, partly through a shift from national action to local action.
However, cuts to public health funding have meant that it has proven far more difficult for local authorities to provide the much-needed specialist support. Cancer Research UK found that a total of 40 per cent of local stop smoking services were being reconfigured or decommissioned in 2014-15.
£200 million has already been cut from local public health budgets and 3.9 per cent average real-terms cuts are expected each year to 2020-21. These cuts are a false economy when it comes to seriously driving forward the agenda on public health, especially in relation to smoking. The new tobacco control plan can only be effective if the right level of funding is found to implement it.
I will continue to press the government to invest in preventative health measures to improve public health in our area and to provide support to local Stop Smoking Services.