Pledge to end smoking in England by 2030

Image copyright Getty Images

The government is pledging to end smoking in England by 2030 as part of a range of measures to tackle the causes of preventable ill health.

Promoting physical activity, developing guidelines on sleep and targeting those at risk of diabetes are also set out as priorities in the green paper.

The policy document aims to reduce the number of years spent in poor health.

Currently men and women spend over a fifth of their lives in ill health – 19 years for women and 16 for men.

Those in deprived areas experience the longest periods of poor health.

The green paper, which will now be consulted on, proposes a number of ways of tackling this.

They include:

  • Ensuring any smoker admitted to hospital automatically gets offered help to quit
  • Extending tooth brushing schemes in nurseries and primary schools
  • Reviewing the evidence on sleep and health with a view to developing clear national guidance on daily recommended hours of sleep
  • Encouraging “active play” such as skipping in nurseries and more travel by bike and on foot
  • Doubling funding for the diabetes prevention programme which targets lifestyle support to those most at risk of developing type 2 diabetes

The measures come on top of steps that have already been consulted on, including:

But the publication of the green paper was immediately criticised after it was slipped out just ahead of the announcement of a new prime minister on Tuesday.

Strawberry and chocolate milkshakesImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption The paper has not proposed extending the sugar tax to milkshakes

Helen Donovan, of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “We’ve been waiting some time for these plans which appear to have been buried in the dying days of the current government.”

She also warned that the plans “already start at a disadvantage” as the money councils get to run healthy lifestyle programmes is being cut.

Councillor Ian Hudspeth, of the Local Government Association, said the green paper contained some “ambitious and interesting ideas”, but agreed it would be undermined by the inadequate funding.

Presentational grey line

Why publish now?

Hugh Pym, health editor

The manner of the green paper’s publication left most in the health world scratching their heads.

It was slipped out online late in the evening by the Cabinet Office and not the Department of Health and Social Care. There was no press notice.

It’s understood Theresa May was determined to get it out in the last days of her premiership, while Health Secretary Matt Hancock wanted to delay it till the new administration was formed.

Front-runner Boris Johnson has made it clear he is opposed to more sugar taxes and similar interventions.

Mr Hancock is thought to have wanted to see how the new Prime Minister might approach the issues covered in the paper.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth branded the green paper “extremely disappointing”, highlighting the decision not to push ahead with extending the sugar tax to milkshakes – the paper proposes waiting to see if industry reduces the sugar content of milk drinks.

There is no commitment either to introduce a levy on tobacco firms to pay for stop smoking services – something which had been called for.

Previously the government had aimed to create a smoke-free society – with smoking rates close to zero – by 2025. Currently 14% of adults smoke.

The consultation on the green paper runs until 14 October, with the government’s response expected by next spring.

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