Smoke-Free Britain on the Horizon
According to a recent poll from Redfield and Wilton Strategies, the majority of UK residents want to see a ban on the sale of cigarettes. 52% would support an outright block on their sale, while 31% strongly back the move to end seeing them in shops. The poll was tested against the New Zealand style legislation, which will eventually phase out smoking altogether. 71% of people wanted to see something similar in the UK.
The results of the poll suggest there is less of an appetite for smoking nowadays, similar to just before the ban on smoking in pubs, bars and restaurants was introduced back in 2006 and 2007. We could be approaching a point where MPs will want to put these views into legislation. Wes Streeting, Shadow Health Secretary, pointed out that the phasing out of cigarettes could be a way of easing pressure on the NHS.
The results of the survey can be seen in the graphs below. There’s an overwhelming majority of people in favour of both stopping the sale of cigarettes and introducing a New Zealand style ban.
The New Zealand approach introduced a ban on the sale of cigarettes to anyone born after 2008, which will stop future generations from ever taking it up in the first place. Accompanied by other measures, it will make smoking less affordable and accessible to people. The UK Government previously set a target back in 2019 for Britain to be smoke-free by 2030, but not much has been done since then. An introduction to a New Zealand style ban would rapidly speed up progress.
The charity Action on Smoking and Health estimates that the NHS could save around £2.4 billion a year by no longer treating illnesses associated with smoking. Even more money needs to be spent by social care and the wider society. However, if the Office for Budget Responsibility is estimating that duties on tobacco will raise around £10.7 billion in the tax year 2022/2023, is the government going to think seriously about cutting off this avenue of tax?
Recently, Spain passed a law that tobacco companies are now responsible for cleaning cigarette butts off the streets and beaches. It’s estimated that the cost of clearing cigarette butts is £11 to £19 per resident for the year. Cigarette butts contain harmful chemicals and are being littered in an unending stream; millions a year. Without an awareness campaign or suitable receptacles, the government had to act.
While it’s still unclear how the measures will be enforced, this is another nail in the coffin for tobacco industries. Other countries could start to follow suit as legislation is coming into effect to ban single-use plastics, and cigarette butts contain microplastics that inhibit plant growth. If the UK wishes to act, it could implement the same issue against tobacco companies and set an end date for the sale of cigarettes. Cleaner, fresher air devoid of smoke could only be decades away.