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« Effects of plain packs "likely understated" (ie disappointing) says official report | Main | ASH CEO on board of "repressive, dangerous and daft" press regulator »
Thursday
Feb252016

Another smoking ban miracle

Smoking bans have helped cut childhood smoking uptake by a fifth says a new study published today:

New research suggests smoking bans across the UK have reduced the uptake of smoking by teenagers by roughly a fifth.
Researchers at the University of Glasgow’s MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit along with colleagues at the Welsh Government and the University of Stirling, looked at school-based surveys to see what effect comprehensive smoke-free policies has had on smoking uptake in adolescents.
The study, which is published today in Nicotine & Tobacco Research, discovered trends in the uptake of smoking amongst teenagers aged 13 and 15 differed substantially before and after the introduction of such legislation.
Dr Vittal Katikireddi, the lead author of the paper, said: “The results demonstrate a fairly big change in the number of young people starting smoking – particularly in girls.
“For 15 year old girls in England the smoking rate reduced from 24% to 19% after the legislation. Of course, the smoking bans are quite recent; the longer term impact could be even greater.”

I haven't read the study (I've only seen the press release) but can this really be true? I was at Stansted waiting for a flight and only had 15 minutes to respond but this was my immediate reaction:

Simon Clark, director of the smokers' group Forest, said:
"While we welcome any reduction in teenage smoking rates, it's incongruous to suggest workplace smoking bans have had a significant impact.
"Smoking rates among children were in decline long before smoking was banned in pubs, clubs and offices.
"Teenagers are well educated about the health risks of smoking and this, more than anything, is the principal reason for the long-term decline in the number of children who smoke.
"Since the smoking ban was introduced we've had graphic health warnings, a tobacco display ban, a ban on cigarette vending machines and further increases in tobacco taxation.
"To suggest that smoking bans have been a major factor in cutting childhood smoking rates is an act of faith not a statement of fact.
"This research is yet another attempt to justify legislation that should be amended to allow designated smoking rooms in pubs, clubs and other adult-orientated venues."

Btw, you'd be amazed how many press releases I've written while waiting for a flight. I must be cursed because it seems to happen every time.

I arrive at the airport, pass through security, buy a magazine or two, order a coffee in the departure lounge and, hey presto, I'm asked to respond to some report or other.

When the call came this morning I only had a short time before the flight left so I had to abandon both my coffee and my triple cheese toasted sandwich.

I'll find out soon whether it was worth the effort.

Update: I've been been quoted by the Press Association, Daily Mail, STV and several local papers. The story didn't get as much coverage as I expected, to be honest.

My colleague Rob Lyons was on LBC this morning and he has just reminded me of something I had completely forgotten.

In 2007, shortly after the introduction of the smoking ban in England and Wales, the minimum age for the sale of tobacco was raised from 16 to 18.

No-one else (least of all the researchers at the University of Glasgow’s MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit and their colleagues at the Welsh Government and the University of Stirling) thought to mention it!

You can read more on this here – Teenage girls and smoking (Action on Consumer Choice).

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Reader Comments (5)

You’re right, of course, Simon – banning smoking in workplaces and pubs is hardly going to have much of an effect on 13 year-olds. But in any case, after all the brainwashing, exaggerated horror stories, propagandising and hectoring that children have been subjected to for the last few decades, I’d say that a drop of just one-fifth taking up smoking is actually rather poor. You’d think after all that effort they’d be hoping for a much, much greater reduction than that. 100% of children have it drummed into them virtually from birth that smoking is the Great Evil Which Must Be Avoided – and yet there’s only been a drop of 20% at most? I personally wouldn’t call that a result worth bragging about (not that that ever stops them – they’d brag if it was a drop of just 0.005%!).

And of course, this “study” completely ignores the fact that all that judgemental, disapproving finger-wagging about smoking inevitably results in very large numbers of children and teenagers (and adults, for that matter) – err – simply lying when asked if they smoke or have ever tried smoking.

When I worked in a college for a while, at one point we asked students before enrolment if they smoked or not in order to allocate them with similar room-sharers (this was before the ban, when we had some smoking and some non-smoking accommodation), and out of about 100 new students, only a handful stated that they were smokers. Once they’d all arrived, it turned out that the real numbers were more like 50%! After that, we re-worded the question to ask if they would mind sharing with a smoker and the results were much more accurate, because that way, they didn’t have to lie on a form which their parents might see! And, just for the record, around 80% (including many non-smokers, as it happens) said they didn’t mind either way. They were, to be frank, more concerned with sharing with a room-mate who had similar interests, study programmes, and personalities etc. So ... so much for all non-smokers finding the smell of smoke intolerable!

Thursday, February 25, 2016 at 2:12 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

As I posted at DP:
"22 per cent of women aged 25 - 34 smoke, up from 20 per cent"
"The proportion of women aged 16 - 24 who smoke has also increased to 21 per cent from 20 per cent"

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/more-young-women-are-smoking-as-as-rate-among-young-men-falls-a6886391.html

It would seem smoking bans delay the uptake, possibly due to the legal age increase.

Thursday, February 25, 2016 at 9:37 | Unregistered Commenterwest2

They are a bunch of misogynists. Why is it OK for men to smoke but women must be forced to quit. If we have equality then surely women must be just as free to smoke as men so why do these sexists bang on all the time only about women who smoke ;)

Yes, another miracle result from a paid for study with the results given that the money bought. Isn't it a shame that Forest doesn't have the billions available to the political lobby groups using charities as front groups because you could buy your own study.

One of the worst aspects of tobacco control is its perversion and corruption of science with money and the prostitution of science to secure that money and ensure it keeps on coming in.

Thursday, February 25, 2016 at 11:56 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

You abandoned a triple cheese toasted sandwich? My God man! No press release is worth that.

Thursday, February 25, 2016 at 13:34 | Unregistered CommenterBucko

Makes you wonder where all these university so-called ' researchers' get all their money from ? Coould it be the smokers they villify ?

Thursday, February 25, 2016 at 16:10 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy Goodacre

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