England a decade after the smoking ban – heading for a smokefree future



1st July 2017

Since the introduction of smokefree legislation in England ten years ago, there has been significant growth in support for this and other legislation introduced by government, particularly among smokers themselves, reports public health charity ASH.

The last decade has also seen the UK become a world leader in implementation of the World Health Organisation’s tobacco treaty. [1] [2] Our smoking prevalence rates for adults 18+ are now neck and neck with Australia (15.5% in England and 15.6% in Australia) [3] [4], the first country in the world to put cigarettes in standardised ‘plain’ packaging. This is due to a faster decline in smoking in England over the last five years. (Smoking rates in England fell by 0.88 percentage points per annum in compared to 0.57 percentage points per annum in Australia between 2010 and 2016).[5] [6]

The ASH report released today, Smokefree: The First Ten Years, also notes increasing public support for further measures such as a licensing scheme for tobacco retailers and a levy on the tobacco industry to pay for measures to reduce smoking prevalence. The data comes from ten years of the data for England in the ASH Smokefree GB survey carried out by YouGov. [7]

Back in 2007 when smokefree laws in England came into effect, 78% of all respondents to the survey were in favour. In the ten years since, support has grown to 83%, primarily due to an increase in support from smokers from 40% to 55%. The overall change is entirely due to changing attitudes among smokers – support among non-smokers has been stable.

This pattern is repeated elsewhere. In 2008, 48% of smokers supported a ban on smoking in cars with children. Prior to the implementation of the new law in October 2015, 74% of smokers expressed support, rising to 82% in 2017. The same trend applies to a potential ban on smoking in outdoor children’s play areas. While support for this from non-smokers has grown slightly from 83% of non-smokers in 2009 to 85% this year, support from smokers has strengthened significantly – from 52% of smokers in 2009 to 64% this year.

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH, said:
“Over the last decade the ASH YouGov survey is evidence of high, and growing, public appetite for government action to reduce smoking prevalence. It’s especially telling that one of the most important factors in this growth is support by smokers – and this is happening at the same time as the numbers of people smoking have fallen to the lowest on record.”

The public also recognises the need for further action by government, support for which has grown over the last decade. Despite the many measures that have been introduced during this period, the proportion of respondents who think the government is not doing enough to tackle smoking has risen from 29% in 2009 to 39% in 2017. In total in 2017 over three quarters (76%) of adults surveyed support the government’s activities to limit smoking or think they could do more, while only 11% believe that the government is doing too much.

Specifically, there is strong support for:

  • Licensing the sale of tobacco products – supported by 76% of respondents in 2017
  • Banning smoking in all cars – supported by 62% of respondents in 2017
  • Charging tobacco companies a levy to fund measures to reduce smoking prevalence – supported by 71% of respondents in 2017.

Public appetite for further action by government is supported by the evidence. Despite the decline in smoking it remains the leading cause of preventable premature death, responsible for half the difference in life expectancy between the rich and the poor. [8] If current rates of decline are sustained in the general population fewer than one in 20 people will smoke by 2030, but much more needs to be done to reduce health inequalities so that no-one is left behind. The average population smoking rate of 15.5% masks wide differences across the population; for example 40% of those with mental health conditions smoke [9] and 26.5% of those in routine and manual occupations. [10] Every day since the last Tobacco Control Plan for England expired on 31st December 2015, hundreds of under 16s have started smoking. [11]

The evidence of the last decade is that tobacco control policies are popular and effective, when they are part of a comprehensive strategy and are properly funded. ASH is calling on the Government to publish the new Tobacco Control Plan with tough new targets and a commitment to reducing inequalities without further delay.

ASH Chief Executive Deborah Arnott said:
“On 1 July 2007 it will be the 10th anniversary of the implementation of smokefree legislation in England – a worthy date for publication of the next Tobacco Control Plan, with a commitment to delivering a smokefree future for our children.”

ENDS

Notes and Links

Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. For more information see www.ash.org.uk/about-ash

ASH receives funding for its programme of work from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.

The data on public opinion in this press release are taken from Smokefree: The First Ten Years. ASH. June 2017. The full report is available here.

A more detailed briefing on the tenth anniversary of the introduction of smokefree legislation in England is available here on the ASH website

ASH staff are available for interview and for more information and an ISDN line available for interviews. Please contact ASH on 020 7404 0242 or out of hours Deborah Arnott on 07976 935 987 or Hazel Cheeseman on 07754 358 593.

References

[1] The UK is top of the European Tobacco Control Scale which quantifies the implementation of tobacco control policies at country level, and is based on six policies described by the World Bank.
[2] The UK was given the American Cancer Society tri-annual Luther Terry award in 2015 for exemplary leadership by a government ministry.
[3] Statistics on smoking in England: NHS Digital 2017
[4] National Drug Strategy Household Survey for Australia 2016 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2016
[5] Selbie D. It’s time for a truly tobacco free NHS. Public Health England 6 December 2016.
[6] National Drug Strategy Household Survey for Australia 2010 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2016
[7] Smokefree: The First Ten Years. ASH. June 2017. Full report available on request from ASH and online from 1 July 2017
ASH Smokefree Survey. These surveys were carried out online by YouGov for ASH
 2007 Total sample size was 1,562 adults in England. Fieldwork was undertaken between 17th – 19th April 2007. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all English adults (aged 18+).
 2008 Total sample size was 1,054 adults in England. Fieldwork was undertaken between 20th – 25th February 2008. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all English adults (aged 18+).
 2009 Total sample size was 10,895 adults in England. Fieldwork was undertaken between 25th – 30th March 2009. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all English adults (aged 18+)
 2015 Total sample size was 10,017 adults in England. Fieldwork was undertaken between 26th February to 12th March 2015. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all English adults (aged 18+).
 2017 Total sample size was 10,488 adults in England. Fieldwork was undertaken between 16th February 2017 and 19th March 2017. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all English adults (aged 18+).
[8] Fair Society, Healthier Lives (The Marmot Review), University College London, 2010
[9] ASH. The Stolen Years. London 2016.
[10] Statistics on smoking in England: NHS England 2017
[11] Hopkinson, NS., Lester-George, A., Ormiston-Smith, N., Cox, A. & Arnott, D. Child uptake of smoking by area across the UK. Thorax 2013. doi:10.1136/thoraxjnl-2013-204379