A five per cent rise in tobacco tax would lead to a substantial drop in the number of smokers and save millions in health costs, a charity suggests.
Such an increase would discourage children from buying cigarettes and help adults quit, a report by Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) says.
Its chief executive, Deborah Arnott, said: "Smoking is a childhood addiction and not an adult choice."
Support for the idea comes from such charities as Cancer Research UK.
The British Heart Foundation and the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID) have also backed the proposal.
The report also says that raising tobacco prices through taxation by five per cent above inflation would lead to a reduction in the number of smokers by 190,000 and save the NHS more than £20m a year by cutting the cost of treating smoking-related diseases.
It also claims a tax rise would also reduce smoking-related absenteeism in the workplace, saving more than £10m a year, increase government tax revenues by more than £500m a year and result in wider economic benefits in the first five years of more than £270m a year.
Ash outlines its call on tobacco prices in a pre-Budget submission to the Treasury.
Its chief executive, Deborah Arnott, said: "By increasing tobacco taxation, we help to discourage children from buying cigarettes. An above-inflation rise would also help adults stop smoking."
FSID director Joyce Epstein said: "Scientific evidence shows that every year the lives of over 100 UK infants could be saved if no pregnant woman smoked.
"Smoking by fathers increases the risk of infant death as well. Our organisation supports increasing the price of tobacco because it will encourage smokers to consider quitting and so protect their children." </p
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