It’s hard to believe that only a decade ago you wouldn’t be able to go to the pub for a drink without smelling like an ashtray when you left. July 1st marked 10 years since smokefree laws were introduced in England, which banned smoking in pubs, clubs, bars and restaurants. 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.
The smoking ban has played a huge part in changing perceptions about smoking and has helped to make it less acceptable. Smokefree laws have had one of the biggest impacts on public health over the last decade. Here are some positive changes we’ve seen since the ban was introduced.
1.9 million less smokers*
Cancer Research UK research shows there are 1.9 million fewer smokers in Britain compared to when the smoking ban was introduced in 2007 – smoking rates are now the lowest ever recorded!
Young people are smoking less
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.
Support for the ban is as strong as ever
Very few people want to turn back the clock and allow smoking in enclosed public spaces. A poll by Cancer Research UK showed only 12 per cent of people are now in favour of reversing the smokefree laws**.
People are less at risk from passive smoking
People’s exposure to second hand smoke in public - passive smoking that can cause cancer and many other health problems - has decreased significantly since the ban.***
Nights out are less smelly
No one enjoyed having to wash their hair and clothes after every trip to the pub! 67 per cent of people polled said their clothes not smelling of smoke is a big benefit of the ban and 58 per cent said their hair not smelling of smoke was a positive.**
Pubs and restaurants are more family friendly
Without the risk of exposure to second-hand smoke, venues that were once no-go for young children are now seen to be more welcoming. According to the poll 66 per cent of people said that a benefit of the ban is that restaurants and pubs are now more family-friendly.
Bar staff are not exposed to as much passive smoking
Reduced exposure to second hand smoke has meant the health of hospitality workers has improved. ***
Former smokers have said it has made it easier for them to give up or cut back
Support from smokers has increased over the past 10 years and many former smokers have said it has helped make it easier for them to give up or cut back.
New laws have been introduced to create even more smoke free spaces for our children
A law was recently been introduced that bans smoking in cars with children. This is taking the smokefree policy forward so young people are protected from the dangers of second hand smoke.
Smoking is less acceptable
People’s perceptions on smoking are changing and tobacco is becoming less acceptable in society. Recently, a law was introduced with strong public support that bans glitzy branding on cigarette packs and increased the size of their health warnings.
All these benefits are taking Cancer Research UK one step closer to our goal of a smoke free generation by 2035 – where less than 5 per cent of people, no matter where they live in the UK.
Alyssa Best, tobacco control policy advisor for Cancer Research UK
* Calculated by the Statistical Information Team at Cancer Research UK, 2017. In 2016 there were an estimated 8.3 million current adult cigarette smokers in Great Britain.
In 2007 there were an estimated 10.2 million current adult cigarette smokers in Great Britain, a difference of 1.9 million.
** All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 4,352 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 22nd - 26th June 2017. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
*** Department of Health. (2011). Impact of smokefree legislation: evidence review.
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