Letter: NHS is good value

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Sir: The Chancellor's populist announcement that money from future increases in tobacco tax will be spent solely on healthcare ("Tobacco duty is ring-fenced for the NHS", 10 November), shows a sad lack of commitment to the principles of good public health.

With a habit as damaging as this, surely prevention should have first call on the rather small sums mentioned - pounds 300m will make little difference to the NHS, but it would transform the tiny (pounds 30m annually) government programme to help smokers give up, not least by increasing the provision of free nicotine patches for the poor.

Any money not needed for this purpose should be allocated to attacking the root cause of smoking among the poorest and least healthy - deprivation and poverty. Since those who are unable to give up will be made even worse off as a result of the increased tax, their families will need all the help they can get.

DONALD REID

Joint Chief Executive, UK Public Health Association

London SW1

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