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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 March 2007, 14:30 GMT
Anti-smoking aids VAT cut welcome
Nicotine patch
VAT on nicotine patches is being cut to 5%
Campaigners have welcomed the move to cut VAT on nicotine patches and gum announced in the Budget.

Chancellor Gordon Brown said he would reduce the rate from 17.5% to 5% from July 1 - to coincide with the introduction of the smoking ban.

Anti-smoking group Ash said it would help smokers, particular those on low incomes, to afford to use the aids.

But smokers lobby group Forest said the taxpayer should not be subsidising smokers who wanted to quit.

We congratualte the government on making this budget a quitters' budget
Deborah Arnott, of Ash

A pack of 20 nicotine patches can cost as much as 25 and although it is available on prescription on the NHS, campaigners say most smokers need patches longer than the 12-week prescription.

Ash director Deborah Arnott said: "One in five smokers say they will try to quit in the run up to the introduction of the smoking ban.

"Using nicotine products can double their chances of success but we know the cost puts many smokers off.

"Reducing the price will encourage many more smokers to use these products so making it more likely they can successfully quit.

"We congratualte the government on making this budget a quitters' budget but one year's reduction in the price is not enough. It should be sustained permanently.

Disappointed

But they said they were disappointed tax on tobacco was raised only in line with inflation - as has happened each year since 2001 when the duty esculator was scrapped.

Sam Everington, of the British Medical Association, said the move on VAT was welcome, but he agreed duty should have gone up by more.

"There is strong evidence that higher prices are one of the most effective ways of helping people give up smoking and preventing young people from starting."

However, Christopher Ogden, director of the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association, expressed concern it had risen at all.

"We welcome this continued restraint but it is still an increase. It will serve only to widen the price differentials between the UK and the rest of the EU.

"It will further encourage smuggling and counterfeit activity and enhance the economic incentive for smokers to shop abroad or purchase tobacco products on the black market."

Neil Rafferty, of smokers' lobby group Forest, said he was disappointed by the rise in duty and he also criticised the move on VAT.

"People choose to smoke. If they choose to quit they should not be subsidised by the rest of the population.

"This is great news for the pharmaceutical industry but bad news for the British taxpayer."




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