The Government has today announced its measures to try and tackle the health problems related to smoking tobacco. They have launched a paper called “Healthy lives, healthy people: A tobacco control plan for England” which includes their desire to ban displays of tobacco products.
There are some problems related to smoking tobacco that cannot be ignored.
- Over 80,000 people die in England each year from smoking related diseases, that’s more than all deaths from alcohol, road traffic and other accidents, suicide, illegal drugs and diabetes combined.
- Smoking causes 18% of all deaths in those aged over 35.
- Smoking is estimated to cost the NHS in England £2.7billion per year, or more than £50million per week.
- The overall cost of smoking to society is estimated at close to £14billion per year (taking into account health costs, lost productivity, and smoking related fires)
- Seven out of ten current smokers want to give up smoking and six smokers in ten make an attempt to quit each year.
These facts speak for themselves to illustrate the problem. Yet, this move, although welcomed by health groups have been met with a barrage of criticism.
One of the biggest concerns about the display ban is about the effect it will have on small business, but I think the government has tackled this issue by delaying the implementation date for small shops. This gives them time to adapt to what is essentially quite a small change.
Equally, people have highlighted this move as the “nanny state” trying to control or restrict individual freedoms [to do self harm]. Yet again, this argument does not seem to hold up, as there is no proposed ban on the purchasing or selling of these products, just that you will have to ask for them rather than be able to see them. The logical conclusion however is that shops should be forced to ban the display of all harmful products (saturated fats, alcohol…where does it stop)?
My concern with the ban is whether or not it will have the desired effect. In other words will it actually reduce smoking rates? The gov’t aims to by 2015 to reduce smoking rates:
- From 21.2% to 18.5% or less among adults;
- From 15% to 12% or less among 15 year olds; and
- From 14 % to 11% or less among pregnant mothers.
If it manages to reduce smoking rates as the government officials suggest then I fully support this ban. I cannot help but to think that the downsides of this ban are the last cries from an embattled industry. I do not think it is threatening our civil liberties. I do not think it will be the reason why small businesses go out of business. But I do think it may just help some of those thousands of people who are trying to give up smoking succeed.
For all those who don’t want to give up – you don’t have to. You are free to carry on smoking!