15 years after the smoking ban Government policy still lags behind public opinion

1st July 2022

  • NEW data released today (1st July) shows the level of public support for action on smoking continues to grow.

The public support the Khan Review’s [1] recommendations to make England smokefree: now it’s time for Government to deliver

July 1st, 2022, is the fifteenth anniversary of the 2007 smokefree legislation that prohibited smoking inside public spaces such as offices, shops and pubs.

Support for Government action on smoking has continued to grow since then, particularly among smokers, as demonstrated by a new report ‘Fifteen Smokefree Years’ summarising results from the annual survey carried out since 2007 by YouGov for ASH. [2]

Around three quarters (74%) support the Government’s Smokefree 2030 ambition, with little difference between those who voted Conservative in the 2019 election (73%) and those who voted Labour (79%).

The public are way ahead of the Government, and right behind recommendations made to the Health and Social Care Secretary for the forthcoming Tobacco Control Plan by Javed Khan’s independent review.

Three quarters (76%) support making tobacco manufacturers pay a levy to fund tobacco control and smoking cessation, 83% support requiring retailers to be licensed to sell tobacco, 70% support increased investment in public education campaigns,  67% support warnings on cigarettes, and 62% support making seating areas outside restaurants, pubs and cafes smokefree. These are all measures recommended by the Khan review.

The public were not asked about the Khan review proposal to raise age of sale by one year every year, but 63% support the policy implemented by the US of raising the age of sale from 18 to 21.

In 2022 three quarters (76%) of the public support government intervention or think government should do more, with only 6% thinking government is doing too much. This includes 60% of smokers, with only 18% thinking government is doing too much to limit smoking, down from 51% when YouGov first asked the question in 2009.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said:

Three years since the Government announced its ambition and over a year since a new Tobacco Control Plan was promised, there’s no time to lose. Hundreds of children still start smoking every day and we’re nowhere near achieving the Government’s Smokefree 2030 ambition. Javed Khan’s independent review sets out a clear programme for action, supported by the public, now it’s time for Government to deliver.”

Bob Blackman MP, Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Smoking and Health, said:

“YouGov’s fifteen years surveying public opinion show clearly that people want government to do more, not less to end smoking, and levels of support have grown over time. A large majority of voters for all the political parties, including my own, support the Government’s Smokefree 2030 ambition. They also support interventions recommended by Javed Khan’s independent review for the Secretary of State for Health, without which the Government won’t achieve its ambition. The Government needs to listen to the public and implement ambitious plans to end smoking without further delay.”

The support for smokefree places legislation grew most significantly prior to the law being passed, and this was pivotal in securing government action. In 2005 the Government tabled smokefree legislation pubs and clubs were excluded from the smoking ban, despite two thirds of the public supporting their inclusion, an increase from a half the previous year. [3]

However, parliament listened to the public and amended the legislation to include pubs and clubs. In the ten years after the legislation came into force support continued to grow from 78% in 2007 to 83%, primarily due to support from smokers increasing from 40% to 55%. [4]

Ex-smoker, and cancer survivor, Sue Mountain from South Tyneside, said:

“When I was a teenager, you smoked to fit in. Down the pub I’d smoke at least one cigarette with every drink. In pubs, the air was a fog of smoke, and the walls were nicotine coloured. The smoking ban changed everything, and pubs and restaurants are cleaner, healthier, more attractive places as a result. I’m pleased that my grandkids can go for a meal without being harmed by secondhand smoke. Sadly for me I was already so heavily addicted it didn’t stop me smoking, that took throat cancer.

“Politicians were going to exclude pubs and clubs from the smokefree laws, worried that voters wouldn’t like it. It was the public that forced government to act then, and the government should listen again now. It’s time to turn words into actions and implement the Khan Review’s recommendations for a Smokefree 2030 so others don’t suffer the way my family and I have.”

Growing support for smokefree places among smokers follows a similar pattern in other areas.

In 2009 52% of smokers supported banning smoking in children’s play areas, rising to 64% in 2017 and 76% in 2022.

When YouGov first asked about laws to ban in cars carrying children in 2008, 77% of adults supported the policy, but only 48% of smokers. In the Spring prior to implementation of the law support by smokers had risen to 74% and a year later after the law had been implemented it had risen to 82%, higher than the general public in 2008.

After legislation was passed prohibiting smoking in cars carrying children, support for extending the ban to all cars increased significantly from 45% in 2014 to 59% in 2015 and is now 66%. Although there is not yet majority support from smokers, that too has increased, from 18% in 2014 to 27% in 2015 and in 2022 was 30% with 42% opposed and 27% neither supporting nor opposing or don’t know.

The Local Government Association [5] and 62% of the public support making outdoor seating areas of all restaurants, pubs and cafes smokefree. This is recommended by the Khan Review, would help de-normalise smoking and is a necessary step towards a smokefree 2030.

The Government is extending the pavement licence regulations for another year and could easily make smokefree status a licensing condition, but has failed to do so, [5] throwing doubt on its commitment to make England Smokefree by 2030.



Notes to the Editor


The impact of smokefree law

On smoking:

  • The smokefree law, and the campaign that supported it, helped to change attitudes and behaviour on smoking. An extra 300,000 smokers were inspired to make a quit attempt as the law came into force.
  • Smoking prevalence in England declined from 24% in 2005 prior to the legislation being passed, to 21% in 2007 when it came into force, since then it has continued to decline and in 2019 was 13.9%.

On the hospitality trade:

FOREST and other tobacco industry funded groups claimed it was bad for business, particularly pubs. In fact:

  • between March 2007 and March 2008, the number of premises with licenses to sell alcohol increased by 4,200.
  • And following the introduction of the smokefree laws, more people reported that they went to the pub more often than reported they went less often.

For additional information, contact press@ash.org.uk


About Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)

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.

Unless otherwise specified all data from the ASH report published today. Regional breakdowns of national survey data also available.



[1] The Khan review: Making Smoking Obsolete. Independent review into Smokefree 2030 policies. 9 June 2022.

[2] Fifteen smokefree years report. ASH. London. 1 July 2022.  All figures in the release, unless otherwise specified, are taken from the report.

[3] Arnott D, Dockrell M, Sandford A, Willmore I. Comprehensive smoke-free legislation in England: how advocacy won the day. Tobacco Control. 2007 Dec 1;16(6):423-8.

[4] ASH research report – Smokefree: The First Ten Years. July 2017.

[5] Local Government Association Briefing. Business and Planning Bill. Committee Stage. House of Lords. Monday 13 July 2020.

[6] The Business and Planning Act 2020 (Pavement Licences) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2022. Laid 16 June 2022.