‘If smoking was really dangerous, the Government wouldn’t let cigarettes be advertised’ say half of UK’s smokers

Tuesday 04 December 2001

About half of smokers (46%) think that smoking can’t really be all that dangerous, or the Government wouldn’t let cigarettes be advertised, according to a new survey conducted by ICM for public health campaigners ASH. In the same poll, a majority of both smokers (54%) and non-smokers (61%) felt that the Government’s continued delay in banning tobacco advertising showed that Ministers were not particularly concerned about the number of people smoking.

These figures will make uncomfortable reading for Ministers as they face renewed calls from health groups for them to act on their often-repeated promises to ban tobacco advertising. An ad-ban was a Labour manifesto commitment in both 1997 and 2001, but a Bill which would have delivered on this promise ran out of time in the run-up to the General Election. A Private Members Bill which would ban tobacco advertising and promotion is currently being debated in the House of Lords, but is very unlikely to become law without Government Parliamentary time and support. Despite repeated calls from the Bill’s sponsor, Lord Clement-Jones, and from health groups, the Government has so far refused to give the Bill this time. ASH is hoping that this poll will make Ministers think again.

John Connolly, Public Affairs Manager for ASH, said:

“It simply beggars belief that, 40 years after we first found out about the dangers of smoking, half of all smokers still don’t appreciate just how dangerous cigarettes are. This poll shows that the Government’s actions (or lack of them) have an effect on how the public – especially smokers – perceive these risks.

“No doubt these results will come as a nasty shock to Ministers – I’m sure they genuinely do want to see a reduction in the 120,000 people who die every year in the UK from smoking. But they need to realise that they will be judged on their actions, and their attitude to cigarette advertising sends a very powerful message about their attitude to smoking as a whole. I only hope that they now sit up and take notice and give Lord Clement-Jones’ Bill the Government Parliamentary time it needs to get onto the statute books.”



[1] ICM Research interviewed a random selection of 1004 adults’ aged 18+ by telephone between 23-25 November 2001.

Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults.

[2] Lord Clement-Jones’ Private Members Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill will have its second session in Committee in the House of Lords on Friday December 7.

Contact: John Connolly: 020 77395902 (Office) or 07702817477 (Mobile) – ISDN available