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British smokers down by 1.9million since the ban

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by Cancer Research UK | News

1 July 2017

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Don't Quit on Us

Ten years after cigarettes were banished from all UK pubs, clubs, bars and restaurants, new figures from Cancer Research UK today (Saturday) reveal there are 1.9 million* fewer smokers in Britain compared to when the smoking ban was introduced in 2007, with smoking rates now the lowest ever recorded.

“The impact on public health is huge. It’s rewarding to know that this effort will go on to have a great impact on the health of future generations.”Sir Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK

Smokefree laws have had one of the biggest impacts on public health over the last decade. The drop in smokers means there are now around 8,300,000 adult smokers in Britain.

Importantly, over this decade of clean air in pubs, the proportion of 16 to 24 year olds who smoke has fallen to 17 per cent from 26 per cent in 2007 – a record low. The drop in this age group is bigger than in any other.

England was the last of the four UK nations to go smokefree, in July 2007. Scotland was first in March 2006, followed by Wales then Northern Ireland, both in April 2006.

A new poll** for Cancer Research UK of more than 4,300 people also revealed that very few people want to turn back the clock and allow smoking in enclosed public spaces. Only 12 per cent were in favour of reversing the smokefree laws.

Most people feel the smoking ban has been positive, with only eight per cent who think this change has made no difference to them or to public spaces.

The most commonly identified benefit was that people’s clothes do not smell of smoke after a night out (67 per cent), followed by restaurants and pubs are now more family-friendly (66 per cent).

Almost six in 10 (57 per cent) agree that the health of hospitality workers has improved, and almost four in 10 (38 per cent) say their own health has also benefited from the reduced exposure to second hand smoke.

20 per cent of smokers said the ban had helped them cut down the number of cigarettes they smoke, and an impressive 14 per cent of ex-smokers credit the ban with helping them quit altogether.

 Almost four in 10 (38 per cent) people across the UK believe that the ban has also helped protect the next generation from taking up smoking.

In addition to the smokefree laws, other measures have been introduced to help reduce smoking over the last ten years. This includes increased taxes, putting tobacco out of sight in shops, getting rid of cigarette vending machines and most recently plain, standardised tobacco packaging.

But even with the fall in smoking rates, tobacco continues to devastate millions of lives. Continued effort is needed as smoking rates will not come down on their own.

Cancer Research UK is calling on the government to publish a tobacco control plan without further delay, to help maintain the progress in reducing smoking rates. Only by building on the success of the ban will the UK reach the goal of reducing smoking to five per cent across all socioeconomic groups by 2035.

Julie Griggs, 51 from Hertfordshire gave up smoking five years ago with the help of her local Stop Smoking Services.

The mum-of-two said: “I first started smoking when I was 15 – it was what you did back then. I carried on until I was 35 when I tried to give up and failed. It was hard because it had always been the accepted thing to do and no one really thought about how bad it was for your health. When the smoking ban first came in 10 years ago, there were more people outside the pub than inside and that was quite fun at first. But times have changed.

“I think the ban made it a lot easier for me to give up. There was less social pressure to smoke and people weren’t watching me and waiting for me to light up anymore. My local Stop Smoking Service offered me great support too and I’ve not had a cigarette since 21 May 2012 – something I thought I would never manage.

“By not smoking I know I am giving myself the best chance of being here for my children for as long as possible. It’s great waking up feeling energetic and healthy, and not having the smell of smoke around me.  It’s a relief to be free from starting the day wanting a cigarette.”

Sir Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “We’re thrilled that 10 years on, the smoking ban has been such an enormous success.

“Cancer Research UK worked incredibly hard for many years to ensure that the law would be effective and that no one would be exposed to toxic second-hand smoke. The impact on public health is huge. It’s rewarding to know that this effort will go on to have a great impact on the health of future generations.

“As well as protecting people from the deadly effects of passive smoking, we’ve also seen big changes in public attitudes towards smoking. It’s now far less socially acceptable and we hope this means fewer young people will fall into such a potentially lethal addiction. But the job is far from done when we still have more than eight million smokers in Britain and tens of thousands of children taking up the deadly addiction every year***. We need this government to continue focussing on tobacco and we urge it to publish the Tobacco Control Plan for England as soon as possible.”

To add your voice to Cancer Research UK’s call for the government to publish the tobacco control plan for England as soon as possible, go to