The Royal College of Physicians has warned that deaths caused by smoking will not decrease unless the government take decisive action
Fifty years since the first groundbreaking report on the dangers of smoking, the Royal College of Physicians says more than six million people have lost their lives to tobacco.
With more than a fifth of the population still using cigarettes, they claim the government have a duty to clamp down on smoking to stop the toll of unneccessarydeaths.
Despite deterrents such as the increased price of cigarettes, they are still 50 per cent more affordable than in 1962, with discounts and illicit supplying adding to the temptation.
‘The real failure is political leadership,’ says Professor John Britton, chair of the RCP’s tobacco advisory group. ‘Some of our governments in the past have been extremely close to the tobacco industry.’
While previously health secretary Kenneth Clarke became director of British American Tobacco in 1998, Tony Blair’s government delayed enforcing a ban on tobacco sponsorship in Formula One due to Bernie Ecclestone’s large donation to the Labour party.
Today, health secretary Andrew Lansley will face calls for price increases, plain packaging, TV campaigns and curbs on smoking in films in a bid to cut smoking deaths.
‘We need to do more to discourage young people starting smoking in the first place,’ says Dr Mike Knapton from the British Heart Foundation.
In the foreward to a booklet launched today, RCP president Sir Richard Thompson describes how 50 years ago cigarette smoke suffocated people in pubs, cinemas, on trains and buses and even in hospitals and schools.
He says: ‘I hope that in another 50 years smoking, like slavery, will have passed into history.’