Across the globe, there has been several different countries introducing bans on tobacco related products, most notably flavoured vape juices or vaping devices which they class as “tobacco products.” The reasons for some of the bans being implemented in countries is part of the countries wider plan to ban all tobacco products, including actual tobacco and cigarettes from sale, to become a “smoke free” country by a specific year, which is ultimately their end goal.
There’s been whispers and rumours surrounding the United Kingdom taking this stance as well, with MPs admitting they are looking at other countries, specifically New Zealand, who have bought in radical new laws and legislations in a bid to become a Smoke Free country. In this article, I’m going to look at would people support a ban happening in the UK by looking at a survey conducted by YouGov asking the same question, and what this could mean if the UK did adopt the same approach as other countries.
New Zealand brings in new laws surrounding the sale of Tobacco products
At the very tail end of last year in December (2022) New Zealand finally passed the law surrounding the sale of tobacco products that had been discussed for a long time, and that law featured the lifetime prohibition on cigarette sales to anybody in the country who was born after 2008.
This was spoken about coming into effect for over a decade, with original plans first released in 2011, after New Zealand government made a pledge that they would get the smoking rates of the total population in the country to less than 5% by the year 2025. A target that was met with some widespread criticism that it would never work due to New Zealand being such a large country, with a dense population including multiple ethnic groups where smoking prevalence is considerably higher.
As part of their plans to reduce smoking rates, the price of cigarettes has gradually crept up in the country of New Zealand, with a pack of “premium” branded cigarettes costing upwards of $20 per pack. And with this coming into effect, the national smoking rate has started to gradually decrease, almost halving in the last decade with around only 8% of the adult population admitting they smoked every day in a survey taken in 2022. The country’s associate health minister, Ayesha Verrall said;
“This legislation accelerates progress towards a smoke-free future,” “Thousands of people will live longer, healthier lives.”
However, this new legislation being introduced in the country hasn’t been met with open arms and praise from everyone, as it’s been met with it’s fair share of criticism from sceptics, dubbing New Zealand adopting a “nanny-state prohibition” and that a move to ban the sale of cigarettes to specific age groups will only lead to a rise in black market sales, and people obtaining their cigarettes through potentially illegal methods, which wouldn’t be good news for the country and could lead to problems further down the line.
Is the UK Government looking at New Zealand and planning to follow?
Seeing the success New Zealand has had with the smoking rates dropping so drastically in a short time frame is something that cannot be ignored, and it most certainly is not being ignored by the UK Government, with some MPs speaking out about their admiration for what New Zealand have enacted and what’s been achieved by their input on the matter of becoming a smoke free country.
The Labour Party, a group of MPs based in the UK, have admitted they could consider potential similar measures to what’s been introduced in New Zealand should they get in power at the next General Election due to take place next year in the UK. The Shadow Health Secretary made a statement declaring their intentions last week when questioned over the state of affairs regarding smoking rates and protecting the younger generation from exposure to cigarettes.
And as expected, this was not met with praise as they might have expected it to be, with critics and sceptics alike deeming that a move like this would be detrimental similar to what it could potentially be within New Zealand.
The Government’s Smoke Free 2030 pledge
As you may or may not know, the Government has been pushing forward a plan for England to become a “Smoke Free” country by the year 2030, meaning just like New Zealand, 5% or less of the adult population in England would be smokers. However, this target is not looking like it’s going to be hit unless some serious intervention is done by the Government, who are the ones that want this goal to be reached.
Dr Javed Khan was commissioned to carry out an independent report on the current state of affairs and whether or not this goal was likely to be achieved by the deadline set out by the Government. And Dr. Khan established that this target was set to miss by a considerable distance, 7 years to be exact and even longer in deprived areas of the country, and gave some critical recommendations on what could be done to reach this target in a swifter fashion than what it would be hit if nothing was done.
Coincidentally, Dr.Khan made the suggestion of raising the legal age to buy cigarettes by one year until it would not be possible for people to buy cigarettes in England, similar to what New Zealand has now adopted. So is this something that we could see here in England? And how would it be received? Let’s take a look at a survey by YouGov and get some answers.
YouGov finds out if people want a ban on tobacco sales introduced in England
In 2021, a survey was conducted by YouGov which mainly focused on people’s attitudes and beliefs on the matter of a prohibition being bought in on the sale of tobacco products in England, and the results make for some interesting reading.
Close to three in five Britons (57% of those surveyed to be exact) support an outright ban on the sale of cigarettes, compared to one third (32%) who did not oppose to this ban potentially coming in.
To elaborate on the answers given, the 57% supported the outright ban of sale either immediately, or within the next two years from when the survey was taken, meaning for it to happen at some point this year. 19% agreed a ban should happen, but after the year 2030 which means it wouldn’t support the Government smoke free 2030 pledge.
And then on the contrary, there was also a worryingly high number of the public who were surveyed not opposing to the banning of vaping products being sold in the UK. 27% of them agreed that they should be banned immediately or within the next two years, 21% want them banned in the future but making things a bit fairer 36% of the people surveyed said there should be no ban on them.
This likely comes down to the lack of education on the safety of E-Cigarettes, and how much better they are than traditional cigarettes. There’s been large spread criticism of E-Cigarettes and misinformation spread around various outlets about the “dangers” of E-Cigarettes, which you and I both know not to be true, but to people who may not know this, they likely take this as the truth and have made their mind up about E-Cigarettes and how they are “dangerous”
An interesting series of events is unfolding across the world surrounding new laws and legislations on the sale of tobacco products, and I really do wonder if something similar will be introduced into the UK at some point in the probably not so distant future.
My question to you is; would you support a ban of sale of tobacco products in the UK?
I certainly would approve of it, but it needs to be done correctly. Small gradual changes is key to something like this being implemented I believe, such as raising the legal age to purchase tobacco products, and eventually phasing out tobacco being sold in the UK. Gradual changes could potentially eliminate the chances of people using black market methods to obtain their cigarettes and tobacco products.
Of course, I do not agree on the banning of vaping products, if anything there should be more promotion of them than what is already happening, and that promotion could come from the Government to really cement in peoples minds that Vaping is safer than smoking, the same thing what Public Health England have declared since 2016.