Smoking is the single biggest cause of cancer in the world

Last week the House of Lords voted to put tobacco out of sight in shops – sending a clear message to the Commons to pass this legislation.

But there have been several other tobacco-related stories in the media over the last few weeks – here’s a round-up.

China orders its officials to smoke more…and then changes its mind

Last week, people around the world were shocked to hear that officials in Hubei province in central China had demanded that council employees, including schoolteachers, smoke nearly a quarter of a million packs of locally produced cigarettes.

The measure was introduced in a bid to jump-start the ailing economy and protect the local cigarette brand from competition from China’s hundreds of cigarette-makers.

Officials failing to smoke their way through their quota were threatened with fines, and representatives from a special taskforce, the ‘cigarette marketing consolidate team’, were to be found rifling through bins and ashtrays in an attempt to catch smokers of other brands red-handed.

But after the edict drew heavy criticism, the Gong’an county government decided to back down, saying in a simple statement on their website that the matter was “under review”.

China is home to about 350 million smokers, and 1.2 million people die every year of smoking-related illness.

How adults could help stop children smoking

How much do teenagers listen to the well-meaning advice of adults about smoking? Do they dismiss it? Ignore their out-of-touch parents? Not so – new research from Sweden has shown that when adults around them take a strong stance on smoking, teenagers not only appreciate it, but are much more likely to say no to tobacco.

The researchers paired up adults and young teenagers in ‘Tobacco-Free Duos’ and followed up the programme for seven years to keep track of smoking rates in the participants. And they found that smoking rates decreased in the teenage participants, both boys and girls, even though there wasn’t a general decrease in smoking rates in that age group among the rest of the population.

An added benefit, which the researchers hadn’t foreseen, was that smoking rates went down in the adults as well, with some adults giving up smoking in order to participate.

Specific things that adults could do to help children not smoke, according to this study, included dissuading their children from smoking, not smoking themselves, and not allowing their children to smoke at home.

Maria Nilsson, the study’s author, said “Children expect adults to work against tobacco. They say this is important and that grown-ups can make a difference by showing a clear and positive commitment.”

And finally, young people support putting tobacco out of sight and out of mind

In a similar vein, our recent survey showed that young people overwhelmingly support putting tobacco out of sight in shops. Researchers interviewed over 1,400 11-16 year olds from across the UK, and nearly two thirds of them supported cigarettes being put out of sight in shops.

These results show the depth of support for the legislation that was discussed and agreed in the House of Lords last Wednesday.

Researchers say there is good evidence that this will help to reduce the number of young people who start smoking by protecting them from tobacco marketing.

Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s CEO, said “Tobacco advertising has been banned on television, in print and on billboards. Yet children are still regularly exposed to branding on packs and attractive tobacco displays in shops.

“Tobacco marketing deliberately tries to build a relationship with potential new young smokers. Over 80 per cent of smokers start before the age of 19 and half of all long-term smokers will die from cancer or other smoking-related diseases – that’s why we want to make smoking history for our children.”