Cigarettes
Don't light up. Anti-smoking campaigners want the government to impose new taxes on cigarettesGetty Images

More taxes on the tobacco industry are needed to help fund anti-smoking measures, health campaigners say.

Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) is leading 120 groups that want an annual levy to pay for more stop-smoking clinics and enhanced media campaigns.

They say it should form part of a renewed push to reduce smoking rates.

Ministers said they would consider the suggestions, despite more than three-quarters of the cost of a packet of cigarettes already going on tax.

But the health groups, which have put their names to a report produced by Ash, have argued that a levy would ensure the money raised would go directly to fund anti-smoking measures.

Peter Kellner, who authored the report produced by Ash, said: "The NHS is facing an acute funding shortage and any serious strategy to address this must tackle the causes of preventable ill health.

"The tobacco companies should be forced to pay for the harm they cause."

The report received short shrift from the tobacco industry, reported the BBC.

New ways to attack smokers after restrictions in pubs and marketing

Giles Roca, the director general of the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association, said Ash was "trying to find new ways to attack smokers and a legitimate industry". It had already advanced a ban on smoking in cars and restriction on tobacco displays in shops.

"Aside from the unwarranted intrusion on individual freedoms, this continued drive to over-regulate the UK tobacco market will simply create greater opportunities for organised crime groups involved in smuggling on a massive scale.

"These proposals are an unprecedented, un-evidenced, dogmatic attack on a legal industry that would have hugely damaging consequences."

However, Public Health Minister Jane Ellison said: "Smoking rates are at the lowest ever level but it still remains the biggest preventable killer in England.

"We have taken bold steps to help protect the public. We will read this report with interest as we develop our new tobacco strategy."