State of Smoking in the United Kingdom
Party to the FCTC:
Since the FCTC:
- Smoking reduction: The adult smoking rate declined from 24 percent in 2005 to 18.3 percent in 2014, according to the latest available data.
- Bans: In 2015, smoking in cars was banned in England and Wales. In 2012, point of sale displays were banned from stores. England banned smoking in all enclosed public places and workplaces in July 2007 (following Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales, which passed similar laws 18 months prior). In 2005, the UK banned tobacco firms from using branded goods to advertise in the UK – a move that corresponded with a European Union (EU)-wide ban on sponsorship of sporting events by tobacco firms.
- Health warnings: Since May 2017, all tobacco products must be sold in standardized packaging that features prominent health warnings and graphic pictures.
- Tobacco tax rates: As of 2017, tobacco is taxed at a rate of 16.5 percent of the retail price, as well as a further “flat” element of £4.15 for a pack of 20 cigarettes.
As a member of the EU, tobacco product regulation falls mainly under the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD). Under the TPD, the United Kingdom has implemented regulations concerning tobacco product flavors, ingredients, warning labels, advertising bans, and sales restrictions. Smokeless tobacco products for oral use are banned, but e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn products are allowed and are subject to ingredient, packaging, warning label, and advertising restrictions. As of May 2017, it’s illegal for UK retailers to sell branded cigarette packs.
UK media frequently covers regulations created to decrease the number of cigarette smokers in the country, including increased taxes on cigarettes. Coverage also focuses on the increasing use of e-cigarettes and positive public opinion toward these products as potential reduced-risk alternatives.
Views of Alternatives to Smoking:
Generally, the public views e-cigarettes as safer and healthier alternatives to cigarettes. Most people do not see e-cigarettes causing an increase in the number of teenage cigarette smokers. Public Health England actively encourages smokers to use e-cigarettes as a tool to help them quit.
By the Numbers:
- Approximately 9 million people ages 18 and older currently smoke.
- The government set a smoking prevalence target for England of 18.5 percent by 2015, which it met and has since exceeded.
- In 2016, 5.6 percent (2.9 million) of smokers stated they currently use an e-cigarette.
- Those aged 18 to 24 in the UK experienced the largest decline in smoking prevalence of 6.5 percent since 2010.
“We have a conducive environment for harm reduction. The UK has taken a very pragmatic approach to public health issues for a long time, we have a lot of scientists who are led by the evidence and not ideologies, we have good health leaders who are very pro-harm reduction, plus we have vocal elements among consumers. So, this is an ecosystem with lots of different players all working together to make harm reduction happen.”
– Gerry Stimson, honorary professor of sociology, Imperial College of London