UK government to halve the number of smokers… a bit ambitious?

The UK government yesterday announced that it wants to halve the number of smokers in England over the next 10 years.

The ambitious plan to achieve this goal includes removing branding from packets and banning cigarette vending machines. There are also steps being taken to implement smoking bans at the entrance of workplaces, bus shelters and pub beer gardens.

For us Aussies, this is nothing new. In Western Australia it is already against the law to smoke in alfresco areas and smokers are not allowed to smoke a couple of metres near businesses’ entrances. For me, a non-smoker, this is a great thing.

The number of people smoking in the UK is still quite a high number at 21 per cent, even though the original statistic has fallen by a quarter in the past decade. The government wants to reduce this further to only 10 per cent.

I’m not sure how much these new laws are going to improve things in the UK, because even though Australia already implements these laws, our smoking statistics are roughly the same. During the period between 2007 and 2008, 22 per cent of men smoked and 18 per cent of women, giving an average of only one per cent smaller than the UK statistic.

However, the British government has decided against a total ban against tobacco in the near future. It said that prohibition would most likely be an infringement on human rights and would just create an illegal trade.

A New Zealand not-for-profit organisation does not feel the same. It is calling for the elimination of cigarette sales by 2013 because it believes it causes too many deaths in the country. Certainly in Australia tobacco is the single most preventable cause of ill health and death. It is responsible for around 80 per cent of lung cancer deaths and 20 per cent of all other cancer deaths.

The moral of the story? Quit your dirty habit, smokers!

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