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Health Policy

Current issues in smoking-related public health policy in England.

Smoking is a leading cause of preventable disease, disability and premature death in England, the UK and globally. ASH’s vision is a ‘world free from the harm caused by tobacco’. To achieve this requires comprehensive strategies, collectively known as ‘tobacco control’ which help addicted smokers quit and prevent youth uptake.

The UK is one of the global leaders in tobacco control, having gone further than required by the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control guidelines and illicit trade protocol which sets out the global framework for tobacco control.

The UK’s position as a global leader has been hard won. The tobacco epidemic began in Britain, with smoking rates for men (aged 16+) peaking at 82% in 1948, and 45% in 1966 for women.

Comprehensive action in recent years has reduced smoking rates in Britain to 14.5% for those aged 16+ in 2020. The difference between men (15.3%) and women (13.7%) has almost disappeared. Despite the significant decline more than one in seven adults aged 16+ were current smokers in 2020, so we still have a way to go before the tobacco epidemic is brought to a close.

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