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Prevention is better than cure: we need your help

The government’s plan for preventing people getting ill was finally released in July. But with the current level of uncertainty in our politics, we need your help to make sure these plans don’t fall to the wayside.

Cigarette stub

What is the prevention strategy? 

The prevention strategy sets out the government's plans for the next decade on how to keep people healthier for longer. The plan is based on the idea that preventing people getting ill is better than cure.

The term 'green paper' refers to proposals that are still up for discussion. The government wants your views on its plans. We’ve put together a simple tool to help your voice get heard on why this is so important.

We know that this sort of thing can be difficult to understand, so here's a quick summary of what's in the plans.

What are the ambitions on smoking in the prevention strategy? 

You may have heard that the plan has a new target to reduce the percentage of adults who smoke to 5% by 2030. If we bring the smoking rate down to 5% from the current level of 14%, we have essentially created a smokefree generation. 

It’s exciting because this is the first time the UK government has decided on a date when we’ll have a smokefree generation. It follows the example in Scotland where they’re already aiming to reach this by 2034. This new timeline is really ambitious and should be celebrated. We know not enough people are given help to quit smoking at the moment, so we need the government to commit to doing everything they can to meet this goal. 

The government also says in the plan that they’ll consider a ‘polluter pays’ approach for tobacco. This means they could introduce a new charge on the tobacco industry where the industry has to pay towards the cost of controlling tobacco and providing stop smoking services. The ‘polluter pays’ charge is a great option because it holds tobacco companies to account for the devastating impact they have on people’s lives and raises money for underfunded stop smoking services. We think this is a great idea and want the government to know it has public support.

What else is covered in the strategy? 

The strategy covers other areas that affect lung health, like flu vaccination and air pollution, as well as things like obesity, mental health and physical activity.  

Unfortunately, the commitments to tackling air pollution aren't very strong. The strategy only talks about how to gather better information about the health effects of air pollution. The Department of Health and Social Care has said it will prioritise working with the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to improve public awareness about pollution sources. We think this is a really important step in recognising air pollution as a public health crisis. 

The government have also committed to writing a new vaccination plan which looks at how to increase uptake of the flu jab. Flu is a potentially fatal lung disease but only around half of people with a lung condition get the jab in the run up to winter. We really need this strategic approach to flu which includes local and national campaigns to protect people.

How you can help

Now the government have published their plans, we need to get as much support as possible for the ideas that protect our lung health. Take a look at our simple tool you can use to give us your ideas on the areas which affect our lungs. We’ll send your thoughts to the government for you. You have until 13 October.  

With the new prime minister in office, turning these proposals into concrete action won’t be straightforward. It’s very possible this new government could have different priorities or will want to rethink ideas. We want to get the message through that preventing ill health can’t be pushed to the back of the government’s pile. 

The strategy is a brilliant starting point for making sure no one has to be dependent on tobacco and improving all our lung health. We need to keep the pressure on and show just how important these actions are.

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9 September 2019