Senior backbench Labour MPs are calling for a windfall tax on tobacco companies to fund an anti-smoking campaign. They say the government should include the measure in its forthcoming white paper on smoking.

Backbench health committee chair Kevin Barron and all-party cancer committee chair Ian Gibson were speaking at the launch of a campaign to make nicotine replacement patches and nicotine gum available on the NHS.

Mr Barron also called for smoking cessation policies to be piloted using either health improvement plans or as part of health action zones so that a national approach could be developed.

Professor Godfrey Fowler, director of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund GP research unit, said nicotine replacement therapy could double the chances of successful smoking cessation.

Professor Fowler said: 'The availability of NRT on NHS prescription would be valuable for GPs, especially when dealing with poorer patients who are unable to afford the cost of over-the-counter purchase.'