First Anniversary of England’s smokefree law shows public ready to acccept even stronger tobacco control measures.

Monday 30 June 2008

On the first anniversary of England’s smokefree law, public support for smokefree environments is still rising [1] and surveys show that most people are in favour of even stronger measures to reduce smoking and to protect children from secondhand smoke [2]. The law has also resulted in a fall in sales of cigarettes [3] and more people than ever are giving up smoking. [4]

Last week, the Office for National Statistics revealed that eighty per cent of Britons agreed with the ban on smoking in public places, with 61% strongly in favour, while a YouGov poll commissioned by ASH found similar levels of support with 63% strongly supporting the measure.

The YouGov survey also revealed that in England:

• 77% of adults support a ban on smoking in cars carrying children under the age of 18
• 85% of adults want retailers who are convicted of selling tobacco illegally to children to be banned from selling tobacco products
• 59% support the banning of tobacco products being displayed in shops
• 65% support the prohibition of sales of tobacco from vending machines.
The Government is currently considering action to restrict or remove the display of tobacco products in shops, as well as requiring retailers to sell them from under the counter, and a possible ban on cigarette vending machines.

The ASH research shows a majority of people are in favour of these policies but for the following measures more than three out of four want more action:

• Easier access to quitting medications, such as nicotine gum and patches (82%);
• Licences for tobacco vendors, which should be removed if they are caught selling to underage smokers; (87%)
• A crackdown on tobacco smuggling (75%).
Deborah Arnott, Director of the health campaigning charity ASH, said:

“The smokefree legislation has been a fantastic success and is hugely popular.
But what it also shows is a hunger for more action: the smokefree law is not an end in itself but has proven to be a catalyst for further controls on tobacco. There is still a lot more that needs to be done. In particular the Government should focus on measures to shield children from tobacco industry marketing while parents and carers can do much more to protect children from exposure to secondhand smoke in the home and car.

“We should celebrate achievements so far but cannot afford to be complacent. With nine million people in England still hooked on tobacco, we must re-galvanize our efforts to substantially reduce current rates of smoking and to protect children from smoking.”

Notes and links:
[1] Smoking related behaviour and attitudes 2007. ONS, 2008.

[2] YouGov poll. Key findings of the survey are available at:
Total sample size was 3,329 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 20th – 25th February 2008. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18 ). The study was a collaboration between ASH, ASH Scotland and ASH Wales. The sample size for the England data was 1056.

[3] A report by industry analysts AC Nielsen in Jan 2008 recorded a drop in cigarette sales of 3.9% for the 12 months from Jan 2007 to Jan 2008 (compared to 2% decline in 2006).

[4] The research found that the decline in smoking prevalence for the 9 months prior to the smoking ban was 1.6% whereas in the 9 months after July it rose to 5.5%. Researchers estimate that this means at least 400,000 people quit smoking as a result of the ban.
Source: The Smoking Toolkit Study. This is a monthly series of national household surveys with smokers and recent ex-smokers being followed up for six months. Data collection began in October 2006. The study is currently funded by Cancer Research UK, McNeil, Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline. The fieldwork is undertaken by the British Market Research Bureau (BRMB).