In 1962 the Royal College of Physicians in Britain came out with a study called Smoking and Health. Back then smoking was the norm and it was everywhere. Rates in the U.K. were high–very high–with 70% of the men and 43% of the women smoking. Fifty years later smoking is now banned in bars and restaurants, and higher prices have curtailed tobacco use to 22% of men and 20% of women. But at a conference held Tuesday, the RCP called for more to be done by the government to reduce the approximately 10 million people who still smoke in the U.K. The college is calling for more government regulations in four areas: higher tobacco prices, prime-time television campaigns, smoking in films, and plain packaging of cigarettes.
Although prices have increased over time, cigarettes are more affordable now then they were in 1965. Discount coupons and store promotions reduce the price of tobacco and illegal suppliers increase the availability of cheap tobacco. Increasing the cost will cause some to stop buying tobacco.
In the U.K. television advertisements for cigarettes ended in 1965, and ads for loose tobacco and cigars in 1991. By 1986 non-television advertisements could not show a person actually smoking. Since 2003 advertisements of tobacco products has been banned including large ads in shops, pubs and clubs. And in October 2011 vending machines were banned. The college is now calling on using advertisements on the television to educate the public on the dangers of secondhand smoke.
Films designed for children often times have more smoking in them then those rated for viewers 17 and older, increasing kids exposure to tobacco and increasing the number of times they see other kids smoking. By eliminating smoking on screen you reduce the number of times kids are exposed to tobacco, and ultimately, the number of kids who take up smoking.
Plain packaging of cigarettes is currently an issue in countries throughout the world. Many countries are facing lawsuits from the tobacco companies in the country’s bid to force them to adopt new packaging designs with graphic images and larger warning labels. Tobacco companies spend millions to develop designs to entice users, and the bright colors and flashy logos lure younger smokers, rather than adults, to their brand. By removing the glitz and glamour of the packaging, children will be less likely drawn to try cigarettes and tobacco, and those adults still smoking will be more likely to give up the habit.
Tobacco control around the world all started by the U.K. report 50 years ago. Some countries have made great strides in protecting the health of its citizens, while others are just beginning to understand the dangers of tobacco. As more is learned about the destructive health effects of tobacco, efforts to eliminate this health concern for future generations is within reach.