Why we support more tax on diesel

Increased tax on new diesel vehicles is a welcome move, but there is still much more to be done to tackle the air pollution crisis, writes Dr Penny Woods, Chief Executive, British Lung Foundation.

‘Unlike the smoky pollution of the past, today’s toxic air is an invisible killer. The air may look cleaner now, but a cocktail of poisonous gases, mainly from traffic fumes, contributes to 40,000 early deaths a year in the UK.

In his budget, the Chancellor announced an increase on the first year rate of vehicle excise duty for new diesel cars. This levy will fund a £220 million air quality plan for local authorities.

This is welcome news for our health and will help tackle the unsafe levels of air pollution in our towns and cities. It is the first step towards the government’s 2040 target to ban the sale of new diesel and petrol vehicles. It is good to see that finally, the government are taking the air quality crisis seriously.

This is welcome news for our health and will help tackle the unsafe levels of air pollution in our towns and cities. It is the first step towards the government’s 2040 target to ban the sale of new diesel and petrol vehicles. It is good to see that finally, the government are taking the air quality crisis seriously.

Air pollution damages the health of us all. It adds to our risk of getting lung cancer. It also worsens symptoms for people with asthma and COPD who are already facing many daily challenges.

It has implications on the health of children, making them more susceptible to breathing difficulties and can stunt their lung growth.  Children’s exposure to filthy air is a major concern because their lungs and immune systems are not fully developed. Air pollution can have lasting effects on respiratory health. Children growing up in polluted areas are four times more likely to have poor lung growth. This has to stop.

Most of the pollution we breathe in comes from traffic emissions, particularly from diesel. These diesel emissions contain more toxic particles and poisonous gases than other fuels.

Lack of understanding has played a part in this. In the past, many people were encouraged to buy diesel vehicles through the tax system. As a result diesel now makes up around half of the vehicles of our roads. Yet many of these vehicles transpired to be more polluting than originally thought.

We are in the midst of a public health crisis and diesel emissions have played a major part in this. This is why we are so encouraged that the government has sent a clear message that diesel in harmful.

The government need to help people move away from dirty vehicles and move towards cleaner transport.

The British Lung Foundation is calling on the government to fund a targeted diesel scrappage scheme that provides incentives for electric vehicles, public transport, walking and cycling.

The British Lung Foundation is calling on the government to fund a targeted diesel scrappage scheme that provides incentives for electric vehicles, public transport, walking and cycling.

The added taxation to new diesel cars is a step in the right direction, but there is still much more work to do. The government now need to bring in a comprehensive clean air strategy that puts in clear plans to protect all our health, for now and for the generations to come. This is a welcome step in the midst of a public health emergency.

Dr Penny Woods

Dr Penny Woods

Dr Penny Woods, Chief Executive, The British Lung Foundation

Dr Penny Woods qualified as a doctor in 1987 and has an MA from Cambridge University and MBA from INSEAD.
Dr Penny Woods

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