Government figures show decline in teenage smoking has stalled – ASH points to delays in tobacco policy

Thursday 26 July 2001


Immediate: Thursday 26th July 2001


Decline in youth smoking stalls: government to blame for go-slow on tobacco policy


ASH said it was disappointed that the decline in youth smoking observed since 1996 appears to have stalled after 1999, but blamed the government for dragging its feet on tobacco policy. Clive Bates, Director of ASH said:


“Teenage smoking is a slow-burning health tragedy -many of these youngsters will be the cancer and heart patients of the future,and as their nicotine addiction sets in, they’ll find it harder to shake off smoking when they start to get worried about their health and want to quit.


“Many think they are immortal or will quit when they are a bit older, but the harsh truth is that teenagers greatly over-estimate the likelihood that they will manage to break the addiction, and about half of all fifteen year old smokers go on to smoke for life.


Despite having a White Paper on smoking in December 1998, the government has been slow to implement its measures – including the ban on tobacco advertising and measures to reduce smoking in public places. Clive Bates of ASH stated the obvious:


“If the government doesn’t actually implement the measures it has announced, then it isn’t going to meet its targets that they are supposed to deliver for reducing smoking either among teenagers or adults.


“How can they justify delaying the ban on tobacco advertising by leaving it out of the Queen’s speech, when they announced it in the 1997 Labour manifesto?  Labour might as well be delivering kids to the doors of the tobacco companies.  Tony Blair either doesn’t care or doesn’t understand that tobacco advertising is the recruiting sergeant for the cigarette companies.


“The only credible way to persuade kids not to smoke is for them to see an adult world in which smoking has become marginal.  As well delaying the tobacco advertising ban,the government has blocked action on smoking in public places and at work, so smoking still looks like a normal part of adult life, and therefore an important part of the world into which they are entering.


ASH called on the government to relaunch its tobacco policy with a report on progress to date and a new document setting out its policy for the next few years.



Contacts:Clive Bates:020 7739 5902 (office) 077 6879 1237 (mobile) (ISDN available)