Is a complete ban on smoking next?

Smoking driver

It is often said if smoking was invented today it would never be legalised.

But with MPs voting in favour of banning smoking in cars with children present - and Downing Street confirming it will now act - it raises the question: what next?

In recent years governments of all colours have been getting increasingly confident about taking tough measures.

Since the ban on smoking in public places, which was introduced in Scotland in 2006 and the rest of the UK in 2007, there has been a series of steps taken from increasing the age at which tobacco products can be bought to stopping shops from having them on display.

So is an outright ban or, at the very least, a ban in homes likely?

Simon Clark, from the tobacco lobby group Forest, thinks so. Reacting to the vote by MPs, he warned a rubicon had been crossed as private spaces were now fair game.

But this has been dismissed by Deborah Arnott, chief executive of the campaign group Action on Smoking and Health, which has been at the forefront of the fight against smoking.

"A ban in homes is not feasible or right. But what this does, and indeed the ban in public places did, was send an important message and as a result the numbers smoking in homes has fallen."

Tough measures

She suggests a complete ban would actually be counter-productive.

"If you ban it a lot of the levers you use to stop uptake you lose. You can't tax it, you can't stop under-age sales. What we want to do is to do everything to discourage it."

Indeed, this is the mantra of much of the medical establishment and health campaign groups.

They now want to see more spent on mass media campaigns - funding has been squeezed by this government - and the introduction of plain packaging.

Ministers are currently reviewing the latter with the help of paediatrician Sir Cyril Chantler, who will be visiting Australia this year to see what impact plain packaging has had since it became the first country to introduce it back in 2012.

What is more, politicians believe they have the public on their side.

In fact, even smokers seem willing to accept the tough measures.

A YouGov poll last year suggested 85% of smokers were already refusing to smoke in cars with children present.

It is perhaps this climate that has given politicians the confidence to be bold.

Even London Mayor Boris Johnson - a staunch defender of libertarian values and freedoms (he has campaigned against mandatory health warnings on wine bottles and ski helmets and booster seats for children under a certain height) - has said he was in favour of banning smoking in cars.

And when he was health secretary, Andrew Lansley talked about making it "socially unacceptable".

In fact, if the tactics of the past few years could be captured in one phrase, that would probably be it.

Nick Triggle Article written by Nick Triggle Nick Triggle Health correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 547.

    @546 Speed of dark

    You keep on making statistical points about illegal drugs usage in relation to tobacco usage.

    You need to take into account the fact that majority of drug usage in this country is actually legal at present.

    Make alcohol illegal too and then I'd be interested in your comparative study. My money would be on a big %age continuing to use drugs (alcohol) illegally!

  • rate this

    Comment number 546.

    541 spindoctor

    Well, they say the exception proves the rule :-) I think most people would accept that the majority of people use some kind of illegal drug in their youth. I've only used cannabis, but it still counts.

    And the point still stands that far far less than 25% of adults use illegal drugs in an ongoing fashion, while around 25% legally smoke.

  • rate this

    Comment number 545.

    Cant we ban clean living? I really think the world needs a few less insufferably dull prudes, filling up hospitals for that last pointless five years they will cling on for. Time for my rum and pipe. Pip pip.

  • rate this

    Comment number 544.

    539. joejob
    I don't know why they don't just go the whole hog and execute smokers...oh, but then there wouldn't be anyone to feel superior to, would there?
    I don't feel superior just to smokers.

    Also, I do think that most people who used drugs as youngsters stop by the time they reach a certain stage in their lives, without having any lasting damage to their health. Make fags A drugs

  • rate this

    Comment number 543.

    I don't know why they don't just go the whole hog and execute smokers oh, but then there wouldn't be anyone to feel superior to, would there?

    Wasn't that the reason we tolerated soul selling politicians? So they get paid for trying to fool us & we laugh at them for being so insincere. The trouble is the game has long been highjacked by Mr Big who rules us through the politicians.


Comments 5 of 547



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