Budget 2020 does not do enough to drive down smoking rates

By June Shanon Policy News   |   8th Oct 2019

Failure to ringfence revenue from sugar sweetened drinks tax also criticised

The measures announced in today’s budget (Tuesday 08 October 2019) do not do enough to drive down smoking rates and tackle childhood obesity, the Irish Heart Foundation has said.

While an increase of 50 cent on the price of a packet of cigarettes announced today was seen as a positive step, the Irish Heart Foundation had called on the Government to commit to increasing the price of a packet of cigarettes to at least €20 by 2025.

Tobacco remains the largest cause of preventable death in Ireland and is responsible for almost 6,000 people dying every year. Smoking related deaths are mainly due to cancers, heart disease and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

According to the latest Healthy Ireland survey (2018), 20 per cent of the current population are smokers. Although the rate of smoking is declining in Ireland, the Irish Heart Foundation believes that bold action is needed if Ireland is to achieve the Government’s objective of a Tobacco Free Ireland of a smoking prevalence of less than 5 per cent by 2025.

Evidence shows that the most effective way to reduce demand for cigarettes is through taxation. Therefore, the Irish Heart Foundation recommended that tax on 20 cigarettes at the most popular price category should increase annually on a pro-rata basis so that the overall cost of a pack reaches €20 by 2025.

Commenting Mr Chris Macey Head of Advocacy at the Irish Heart Foundation said, “The Irish Heart Foundation welcomes the continuing policy of annual price hikes on cigarettes which have spearheaded an historic reduction in smoking rates particularly among young people in Ireland.

“But much more needs to be done to drive down smoking to the Tobacco Free Ireland target of 5 per cent, which equates to 200,000 smokers by 2025. And the failure to announce more significant tax increases in tandem with much greater investment in quit services brings into question the Government’s commitment to even trying to achieve one of its flagship national health policies.

“The number of smokers in Ireland has fallen by 80,000 over the last three years, but we need further reductions of 100,000 every year up to 2025 to meet the Government target. We believe that increasing the price of a pack of cigarettes to €20 by then, in addition to an immediate quadrupling of investment in quit services to at least €50 million a year are essential to achieving such a sizeable reduction in smoking rates.”

“ The failure to ringfence revenue collected from the sugar sweetened drinks tax or to increase funding for Healthy Ireland is a dereliction of the State’s duty of care to children,"

Mr Chris Macey, Head of Advocacy , Irish Heart Foundation

The Irish Heart Foundation also criticised the failure of Budget 2020 to ringfence revenue collected from the sugar sweetened drinks (SSD) tax or to increase funding for Healthy Ireland.

The SSD tax was introduced in Ireland on 01 May 2018 and it applied a 30 cent per litre tax on drinks with more than 8g of sugar per 100ml and a 20 cent per litre tax on drinks with between 5 and 8g of sugar per 100ml.

The SSD yielded a total of €7.7 million in the first three months of 2019 and in 2018 a total of €16.5 million was collected from the tax, giving a total revenue of €24.2 million to the end of March 2019.

The Irish Heart Foundation has long called for a portion of the proceeds from the SSD tax to be ring-fenced to fund measures to prevent childhood obesity in Ireland.

In the UK the SSD tax raised GBP153.8 million or €172.5 million from when it was first introduced in April 2018 to the end of October 2018. Revenue collected from the levy in the UK will help fund physical education activities in primary schools, the Healthy Pupils Capital Fund and provide a funding boost for breakfast clubs in more than 1,700 schools.

According to Mr Macey, “The failure to ringfence revenue collected from the sugar sweetened drinks tax or to increase funding for Healthy Ireland is a dereliction of the State’s duty of care to children when its own research estimates that 85,000 of today’s children on the island will die prematurely due to overweight and obesity.

“This raises the question as to whether the tax is a health measure, or just another revenue raiser to boost the State coffers whilst the Government fails yet again to resource crucial measures in the national obesity plan.”

For information and support to help quit smoking please see here 

 

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budget budget 2020 childhood obesity cigarettes quit smoking sugar sugar drinks tax Tips to help quit smoking tobacco

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