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, and for our nation as a whole. I agree that specialist support and Stop Smoking Services are crucial in helping individuals to quit smoking and lead a healthier lifestyle.
Investment in public health and prevention is vital to tackling smoking-related diseases and I have long supported the establishment of a new tobacco control plan. After 18 months of delays, the Government finally published its updated strategy in July. The plan claims to set out an approach to create a smoke-free society, with a shift from national action to local action, but does not identify any significant resources with which to achieve that.
I share your concerns that cuts to public health funding have meant that it has proven far more difficult for local authorities to provide the much-needed specialist support. In a survey of local tobacco control leads, Cancer Research UK found that a total of 40% 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% average real-terms cuts are expected each year to 2020-21. I believe that cuts to public health grants 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, not just in Ipswich but in the whole of the UK.
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.