Government crackdown on smoking and alcohol paused until next PM is chosen, ITV News understands

Plans had included a 'vaping revolution' hoped to turn people away from tobacco. Credit: PA/ITV News

A major drive to reduce the harm caused by heavy smoking and alcohol use has been placed on pause until a new prime minister is in place, ITV News understands. 

Sources say the plans had included hopes for a "vaping revolution" to try to shift more people away from tobacco. 

The white paper on health disparities - that was due to be published this week- will now be delayed until after the summer- and only go ahead if the new Conservative leader gives it the green light. 

Liz Truss, Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt. Credit: PA

Sources revealed that the paper was going to propose driving up access to alternatives to harmful substances such as tobacco to try to reduce some of the gaps in health outcomes between the poorest and most affluent in the country. 

One idea is to liberalise access to vaping to try to help heavy smokers switch away from cigarettes - a move that could be controversial among groups who believe that vaping is harmful. But officials are likely to have been persuaded by evidence that shows vaping is far less harmful than smoking tobacco.  

Vaping is seen by many as a safe alternative to smoking tobacco, and many people use it as a way to wean themselves off cigarettes. Credit: PA

The paper also planned to push for alcohol free alternatives to drinks like beer being more available in pubs. 

The paper was also looking at poorer health outcomes for people from certain ethnic minority groups - and to provide more funding to genomics that could result in people having treatments more personally targeted at their needs. 

Driving down health disparities was one of Sajid Javid's biggest aims as health secretary and the subject of his first major speech in the role. 

Sajid Javid. Credit: PA

Speaking to the Centre for Social Justice - a Tory think tank founded by Iain Duncan Smith - Javid pointed out that black and Asian Brits were more likely to die from Covid adding that admission rates for the disease in the most deprived parts of England were 2.9 times higher than the least deprived – and the mortality rate was 2.4 times higher.

Giving the speech in Blackpool he also pointed out gaps in life expectancy - saying in the north west city it was the lowest in England at 74 years for men and 79 for women.

"Compare that to somewhere like East Dorset, where the figures are 83 and 86 respectively – when you do that, the disparity is clear, " he said. 

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In recent weeks charities and other health groups have been pushing for the paper to introduce preventative measures and measures that have a population wide focus. 

Sources said there was a risk that a future pm could drop this agenda - although pointed out that the policies had been framed as "non-nanny state" - perhaps to try to make sure it had Cabinet support. 

A Department for Health source would not comment on whether the paper had been delayed but pointed out that it was a commitment made in an earlier levelling UK white paper and said timing would be updated in due course. 

But ITV News understands that DH - like other Whitehall departments - are placing several things on pause, with the government only focusing on a few new policies to go ahead before the summer recess.