THE TOBACCO industry may be forced to pay millions of pounds more in tax if the government backs a new levy on manufacturers and importers.
Chancellor George Osborne yesterday said the government will consult on how tobacco firms could repay the “costs on society” that smoking brings.
“Smoking imposes costs on society, and the government believes it is therefore fair to ask the tobacco industry to make a greater contribution,” the chancellor said, as he delivered the Autumn Statement.
“The government will shortly launch a consultation on introducing a levy on tobacco manufacturers and importers.”
Labour has already proposed a tobacco levy, with proceeds earmarked to improve NHS cancer treatment and to bring the UK’s cancer survival rates into line with other European countries.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of the health charity Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), said: “For months, Ash has been calling on all the main political parties to include a pledge for a levy on the tobacco industry in their party manifestos.
“It’s almost like Christmas come early to have the government launch a consultation on how to make the tobacco industry pay for the damage it does. All that’s needed now is for the government to announce that it is going ahead with standardised packaging for cigarettes too.”
She added that any income from a levy should be used to prevent children from taking up smoking and helping smokers to quit.
Arnott also urged the government to introduce standardised packaging.
The charity estimated that a levy of 1p per cigarette could raise £350m.