Smoking is on the decline - according to our Health Survey for England it fell from 29% in 1996 to 21% in 2011. It’s difficult to say whether this indicates that just over 1 in 4 smokers have quit in the last fifteen year or whether it’s a case of generational displacement; just 10% of 11-15 years olds are regularly lighting up - well exceeding the government target of 12% by 2015. Either way, it’s clear that things are moving in the right direction and public health policy in this area seems to be working.
In Europe, MEPs recently met to discuss further policies for union wide regulations. With a view to targeting young people, the European Parliament is banning menthol and flavoured cigarettes, 10 packs of cigarettes and to increase the size of health warnings on tobacco products. These policies will become European law in 2014 and will be effective in the member states by 2016.
In the UK, the government is going even further, U-turning on plain packaging with the Australian model becoming a real possibility by 2015. We’ll also be seeing e-cigarettes fall under the scope pharmaceutical regulations by 2016 with GP providing e-cigs as part of the nicotine replacement therapies available on the NHS. Softer interventions like Stoptober also signal the government’s commitment to driving down smoking with roughly 250,000 smokers successfully quitting with stoptober.
Keeping pace with these developments, we’re including e-cigarettes smoking or ‘vaping’ in our questionnaire for the next adult psychiatric morbidity survey. And, for the first time this year, Health Survey for England participants were asked about their e-cigs; figures from this year’s survey will land in 2014.
So we’re smoking less but the government is still striving to push smoking prevalence rates down - according to Action on Smoking Health two-thirds of Britain 10 million smokers (yes, 10 million) still want to quit.