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Risk and regulation

A new study has found that the tobacco display ban has reduced the ‘risk’ of children smoking.

Given that it was conducted by researchers at Stirling University, home of the Centre for Tobacco Control Research, you’ll forgive me if my default reaction was to treat it with a little suspicion.

So far I’ve only read the press release but it’s interesting that when judging the impact of the ban researchers focused on children’s ‘susceptibility to smoking’, point-of-sale visibility and brand awareness rather than clear evidence that fewer children are smoking as a result of the ban:

Smoking susceptibility among never smokers decreased from 28 percent pre-ban to 23 percent mid-ban, and 18 percent post-ban. Noticing cigarettes at point-of-sale decreased from 81 percent pre-ban, to 28 percent post-ban; and cigarette brand awareness also reduced, with the average number of cigarette brands recalled declining from 0.97 pre-ban to 0.69 post-ban.

Of course it’s good news if fewer children are smoking but there are other ways to reduce youth smoking rates that don’t involve creeping prohibition and policies that infantilise us all.

The issue is, how far should government go to deter children from smoking and are laws like the display ban justified by the outcome (which I maintain is still unclear, despite this study)?

For what it’s worth, my view is that there was very little evidence (before the ban) that the sight of cigarettes in shops encouraged children to smoke, and very little evidence (post ban) that the legislation has had any impact on youth smoking rates.

Anyway, invited to comment on the study I gave the BBC this rather long-winded response, with the caveat that they were free to edit it, which they did.

“The study looked at risk and susceptibility but both are subjective. We're told that the risk of eleven to 16-year-olds taking up smoking went down because of the display ban but where is the evidence that the ban actually reduced the number of children who smoke?

“We support reasonable measures that discourage children from smoking but hiding a legal consumer product infantilises everyone and sets an unwelcome precedent for other potentially harmful products. 

“Instead of hiding tobacco products, children need to be educated about the health risks and taught that it's wrong to smoke until they are 18 when they can make an informed choice. At the same time retailers who sell cigarettes to anyone under 18 must be prosecuted and punished."

See: Tobacco display ban 'safeguards young people' (BBC News)

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Reader Comments (3)

It doesn't matter what the truth is. Lies work in their favour and set the stage for the next abusive assault on adult consumers which is really who they want to get at exploiting children to do it.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019 at 11:54 | Unregistered Commenterpat nurse

Curious that we have to have cigs hidden away and in stupid packaging. Countries like Austria and Switzerland do neither. Even France with stupid packaging doesn't hide them away. Ah but we are a nanny state with politicians led by non elected bullies intent on turning us all into brain dead morons !

Tuesday, May 14, 2019 at 16:07 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy Goodacre

Once again the tobacco controllers lie and manipulate studies just to state their hatred of tobacco and smokers. There is no objective evidence that display of cigarettes contributes to youth smoking and no objective evidence that display bans reduced youth smoking. But absent evidence you cal=n count on the social control grifters to just make it up.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019 at 22:19 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

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