UK tops the latest EU tobacco control league table.

Thursday 11 October 2007

The United Kingdom has the most comprehensive tobacco control measures in the whole of Europe, according to a new survey released today. [1] The research, conducted by a group of experts in tobacco control, found that the UK scored 93 points (out of a possible 100). A similar survey conducted in 2004 put the UK in second position behind Iceland. But this year’s smokefree legislation has given the UK the extra points it needed to move up to the top position as leader in European tobacco control.

The results of the 30 country survey are being presented today at the European Conference on Tobacco or Health being held in Basle, Switzerland. Countries were judged according to a scale of measures considered to be essential components of a comprehensive tobacco control programme. The six measures are:

• price increases through higher taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products;
• bans/restrictions on smoking in public and work places;
• consumer information, including public information campaigns
• comprehensive bans on the advertising and promotion of all tobacco products
• large, direct health warning labels on cigarette packs and other tobacco products;
• treatment to help dependent smokers stop, including increased access to medication.

Whilst the UK deserves praise for its success in tackling tobacco, it risks being a victim of its own success unless the country continues to invest in tobacco control measures, warned Luk Joossens, Advocacy Officer of the European Cancer Leagues and co-ordinator of the research.

Luk Joossens, commented:

“The UK should be congratulated for its efforts to tackle the tobacco epidemic. The smokefree law was the missing piece in the jigsaw of essential tobacco control measures. However, the national government must not be complacent. Tobacco smuggling is still a huge problem and risks undermining the otherwise good tobacco tax policy. The UK has taken measures to control smuggling but to be fully effective requires a global strategy. To have an impact on smoking rates, the UK government should strongly support the negotiations that are about to start on a smuggling protocol as part of the global tobacco treaty. “

Deborah Arnott, Director of the health campaigning charity ASH, said:

“The UK government can be proud of its achievements in implementing strong tobacco control measures over the past 10 years. However, smoking is still only declining at a rate of 0.4% per year overall and at an even slower rate among socially disadvantaged groups. At the current rate, the Government is unlikely to reduce health inequalities and in fact the gap is set to widen. It is vitally important that the Government increases measures to help poorer smokers to quit by widening access to stop smoking treatments and maintaining the funding of its mass media educational campaigns. The Government’s targets for reducing smuggling should also be renewed and strengthened as a means of measuring progress towards tackling this harmful and illicit practice. ”


Notes and links:
[1] Progress in tobacco control in 30 European countries 2005 to 2007 (pdf)
In order to compare how European countries are tackling tobacco control, points were awarded for a range of measures, according to their effectiveness in reducing smoking. For example high tax and smokefree measures are considered to be the top two most effective policies and attract the highest scores (30 points and 22 points respectively).

[2] The Department of Health has a number of Public Service Agreement targets to reduce smoking. The overall target is to reduce smoking among adults to 21% by 2010 and for smokers in routine and manual groups to 26% or less. The latest statistics show that in England in 2005, 24% of adults overall were smokers, whilst smoking prevalence among manual groups was 31%.

Other resources: The WHO’s European Tobacco Control Report 2007 (pdf) also lists tobacco control measures by country in the WHO European region (this covers 41 countries).