Smokers are to pay nearly £1 more for cigarettes as the UK Government rises tobacco duty tax in the UK. According to the health charity ASH Wales, the rise is likely to price cigarettes out of the reach of young people in Wales.
Earlier this month the UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt released the Spring Budget which raised tobacco tax to 2% above inflation (RPI). The rise will mean a packet of 20 cigarettes will increase by 95 pence, taking average prices to more than £14 a packet.
The move has been welcomed by the tobacco control charity ASH Wales, who mark that raising prices is one of the most effective ways of reducing smoking rates, especially amongst young people. In Wales, 9% of 15-16 year olds smoke on a regular basis, a figure that has remained largely unchanged for a decade.
The price increase is welcomed by ASH Wales after recent research by the University of Essex found increased tobacco tax is effective at reducing smoking rates in those aged 25 and younger.
The research suggests those in younger age groups are more sensitive to price changes, which means a rise in price often translates to lower youth consumption of cigarettes.
According to ASH Wales smoking is an addiction of childhood. According to the charity’s latest YouGov survey, the majority of adults in Wales (77%) had their first cigarettes under the age of 18.
The charity marks that public support to protect youth health is strong in Wales, as 73% of Welsh adults are in favour of Government action to limit youth smoking.
ASH Cymru CEO, Suzanne Cass, said: “Smoking is such a deadly addiction we need to do everything we can to keep these tobacco products out of the hands of children. With more than 6,000 children taking up smoking every year in Wales, clearly there is still work to be done.
“Pricing tobacco products out of the reach of young people makes tobacco less affordable and less accessible.
“We know the younger you start smoking the more likely you are to smoke in later life. Raising tobacco prices helps to limit this pathway, and in turn helps to reduce smoking related harms in both adults and youth in Wales.”
The tobacco industry lobbies against tax increases, arguing that high taxes cause illicit trade, however, Roger Mapleson, Lead Officer for Tobacco from Trading Standards Wales, said these claims are unfounded:
“With the average price of a packet of 20 cigarettes doubling in the last ten years you would expect the trade of cheap illegal tobacco to increase, in fact the sale of illegal tobacco, whilst still a problem, has decreased.
“The illegal tobacco market makes up 10% of all tobacco sales in Wales and makes it easier for children to start smoking and brings crime into the community. However there is little evidence that price increases translate into significant increases in the illegal trade.
“We would encourage anyone who knows anything about the sale of illegal products to report it through Wales’s national reporting portal Noifs Nobutts.”
Anonymous reports of illegal tobacco sales, underaged tobacco sales, and illegal tobacco sellers can be made via the Welsh reporting portal: noifs-nobutts.co.uk