Calls from a group of MPs for the Government to publish its promised new Tobacco Control Plan without further delay have been welcomed by campaign group Fresh.
The Government committed to a new plan after the previous one expired in December 2015 and to publication in summer 2016, but summer has passed and there is still no publication date.
There is widespread public support in the North East for Government action to reduce smoking.
A recent large public poll by ASH/YouGov found that 44 per cent of adults in the region thought the Government was not doing enough to tackle smoking while 31 per cent thought the Government’s activities to tackle smoking were about right.
Under the previous Tobacco Control Plan for England a great deal was achieved with smoking rates falling among both adults and children below the target levels and rates of smoking during pregnancy falling to the 11 per cent national target earlier this year.
However, while Britain remains a world leader in tobacco control, smoking is still responsible for approximately 78,000 preventable and premature deaths every year in England alone, and almost 100,000 across the UK.
Members of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health have stressed the importance of a renewed Government strategy on tobacco that is sustained and progressive.
Alex Cunningham, Labour MP for Stockton North, said: “While smoking rates among the adult population have fallen in recent years, health inequalities have remained stubbornly high with poorer people at least twice as likely to smoke as those who are well-off.
“These higher rates of smoking place a significant financial burden on poorer members of society.
“Helping disadvantaged people to quit is not only good for their health, but can also help lift families out of poverty.
“The new Tobacco Control Plan therefore needs to prioritise cutting health inequalities, rather than budgets, and in doing so must protect public health funding for tobacco control.”
Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, said: “In the last few years, we have seen important laws passed to protect children from smoking in cars and the promotion of tobacco, including plain, standardised packaging, but it is clear we still have major challenges ahead.
“Most smokers would like to quit, but some find it hard to stay quit, and it is the poorest people in our society who start smoking youngest, suffer from years of ill health, and die younger. We need to ensure everyone in the NHS plays a role to provide support.”