Smoking is a leading cause of preventable disease, disability and premature death in England, the UK and globally. ASH’s vision is a ‘world free from the harm caused by tobacco’. To achieve this requires comprehensive strategies, collectively known as ‘tobacco control’ which help addicted smokers quit and prevent youth uptake.
The UK is one of the global leaders in tobacco control, having gone further than required by the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control guidelines and illicit trade protocol which sets out the global framework for tobacco control.
The UK’s position as a global leader has been hard won. The tobacco epidemic began in Britain, with smoking rates for men (aged 16+) peaking at 82% in 1948, and 45% in 1966 for women.
Comprehensive action in recent years has reduced smoking rates in Britain to 14.5% for those aged 16+ in 2020. The difference between men (15.3%) and women (13.7%) has almost disappeared. Despite the significant decline more than one in seven adults aged 16+ were current smokers in 2020, so we still have a way to go before the tobacco epidemic is brought to a close.
- ASH Law guide: for the laws, policies and agreements applying to tobacco and related products in England.
- Tobacco Industry: for non-health policies such as tax, illicit trade and the environment.
- ASH factsheets: on health impacts of smoking
Indoor smoking ban
Smoking in enclosed public places and workplaces has been illegal in England, Wales and Northern Ireland since 2007 and in Scotland since 2006. This has resulted in significant improvements in public health, particularly for children and led to changes in behaviour and attitudes towards smoking.
Point of Sale Display
After the ban on tobacco advertising in the UK in 2003, tobacco companies became increasingly reliant on displays at the point of sale to draw attention to their products and stimulate sales. Evidence shows that children are more likely to smoke if they are exposed to in-store tobacco marketing.
Smoking in cars
The ban on smoking in cars where children are present came into effect on 1st October 2015. It is part of the Children and Families Act 2014 which also made it an offence for an adult to buy cigarettes for anyone under the age of 18. The SFAC supported the legislation and produced a party conference briefing setting out the key arguments for MPs.
Tobacco harm reduction
The Smokefree Action Coalition successfully campaigned for the government to publish the current Tobacco Control Plan for England. We are also committed to supporting the adequately funded implementation of the Plan at the national and local level. We also urge the government to continue to update and improve its strategy over time to ensure that it remains effective.