The government should cut VAT on vaping products to help people stop smoking, the Local Government Association (LGA) has urged.
VAT on e-cigarettes should be reduced from 20% to 5% to bring them into line with sales on nicotine gum and patches, the LGA, which represents councils in England and Wales, said.
Current legislation allows a 5% rate to be applied to “pharmaceutical products designed to help people stop smoking tobacco”.
The LGA said there was growing evidence to suggest that using e-cigarettes could help people quit smoking.
It said making legal vaping products more affordable and treating them equally with other stop-smoking methods would incentivise more people to quit the habit.
As well as reducing VAT on e-cigarettes, councils are calling on the government to impose a Smokefree 2030 levy on tobacco manufacturers, with the revenue directed to the areas, occupational groups and communities where it was most needed.
Last year, around 13% of the UK population smoked, with smoking-related illness such as lung cancer still being one of the leading causes of preventable death in the UK.
The LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board chairman David Fothergill said: “Council public health teams work hard to help reduce smoking rates in their areas, alongside local charities and community groups, and it is testament to their efforts that smoking rates continue to fall.
“There is increasing evidence that e-cigarettes, along with other dedicated support, act as an important gateway to help people to stop smoking, which reduces serious illness and death as well as other pressures on health and care services.
“Every pound invested by government in council-run services such as public health helps to relieve pressure on other services like the NHS, criminal justice and welfare. Councils can help the Government to achieve its ambition of eliminating smoking in England by 2030, through their tobacco control and other public health and support services, but need certainty over their long-term funding.”