Tobacco tax to be ringfenced for NHS

BMJ 1999; 319 doi: (Published 20 November 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:1322
  1. Linda Beecham
  1. BMJ

    The NHS is to benefit for the first time from increases in tobacco duty. This is the result of the government's decision to earmark such increases for preventing and treating smoking related diseases.

    Gordon Brown, the chancellor of the exchequer, announced the tax in his prebudget statement last week. If the duty is raised by 5% on1 April next year, it would raise £300m ($480m) for the NHS for the year 2000-1. Mr Brown said, “The government is serious about tackling the deaths, disease, and health inequalities caused by tobacco.”

    The health secretary, Alan Milburn, said that the money would “give the NHS the means to modernise services and to help deal with some of the health damage caused by tobacco.” Smoking kills 20000 people a year in Britain, and treating diseases that are related to smoking costs the NHS £1.7bn a year.

    The chief executive of the NHS Confederation, Stephen Thornton, thought that the move would be popular, even with smokers. “If they are going to be taxed it may as well go to a good cause,” he said.

    Dr Ian Bogle, chairman of the BMA council, pointed out that the tax would not solve the NHS's pressing financial problems. He added: “The priority must be to persuade young people not to smoke and to help smokers to stop.”

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