• June 15, 2024

‘Generational Ban Not Enough to Level Up U.K.’

 ‘Generational Ban Not Enough to Level Up U.K.’
Photo: Rawf8

Although Britain’s generational tobacco ban will eventually increase “healthy life expectancy” (HLE) by 2.5 years, it will not be enough to let the government meet the targets of its “leveling up” agenda, according to new research.

Local government secretary Michael Gove’s 2022 leveling up white paper pledged to narrow the difference in HLE between England’s most prosperous and most deprived local authorities by 2030 and to boost overall HLE by five years by 2035.

HLE measures the number of years lived in at least reasonable health. In the U.K., it has risen more slowly than life expectancy in recent decades, meaning people are typically spending more years in poor health, with obvious implications for healthcare and social care budgets.

The researchers, drawn from Bayes Business School, Heriot-Watt University and LCP, analyzed the likelihood of the 2035 target being met. They published their paper, “The Great Health Challenge: Levelling Up the UK,” in The Geneva Papers on Risk and Insurance: Issues and Practice.

“It is clear that drastic smoking cessation intervention is necessary to increase healthy life expectancy across the population and to narrow pernicious health inequalities,” said lead author Les Mayhew, professor of statistics at Bayes Business School, in a statement. “The rolling ban proposed in the government’s current legislation is a good first step, but further research could strengthen the case for an outright ban.”

The analysis confirmed that people who have never smoked typically enjoy an additional six years of HLE. Earlier research has shown that smoking kills around 78,000 people in England each year and leads to around 500,000 hospital admissions.

Recent research by the International Longevity Centre concluded that smoking cuts U.K. economic output by £19.1 billion ($24.29 billion) due to shorter working lives. Welfare and healthcare costs would boost that figure significantly.

“Our paper confirms that a smoking ban on those born in 2009 or later is one of the best ways to improve the health of people living in more deprived areas of the U.K.,” said Andrew Cairns, professor of actuarial mathematics at Heriot-Watt University. “The findings vividly illustrate the transformative impact of this measure on the health landscape.”