Thursday, 19 August 2010

New smoking figures - bitter sweet news

Today’s figures on the number of people smoking – and quitting – are bittersweet.

The latest NHS statistics show that while more people are kicking the habit, the percentage of smokers in England has remained the same. While it is great news that more people are successfully quitting, it sadly looks as though the tobacco industry is still able to recruit legions of new smokers to replace those who quit - or die from smoking related ill health.

We know the tobacco industry is trying harder than ever to find new recruits, which is why those firms are so opposed to new laws banning cigarette vending machines and tobacco displays in shops.

It’s a fact that two thirds of smokers start before they are 18, and we know tens of thousands of teenagers regularly get hold of cigarettes from vending machines because they are an easy source of tobacco where people rarely check for age identification.

We campaigned hard for this new law because banning vending machines would cut off this easy access to cigarettes by young people and getting rid of tobacco displays would close off one of the few remaining ways for tobacco firms to market their products to such an influential audience.

Everyone, even the tobacco firms, know that smoking is bad for you and the scientific case against it is long and well established. It’s a major risk factor for developing heart disease borne out by the depressing figure that 25,000 smokers die every year from smoking related heart disease. A total of 114,000 smokers die more generally as a result of their habit.

Yet tobacco firms are hard at work lobbying the Coalition government in the hope ministers will back down. We think we should be doing everything we can to protect children from smoking. You can help by writing to your MP asking them to make sure this law becomes reality. The health of our young people depends on it.

By Joseph Clift
Policy Officer

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