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Government policy still lags behind public opinion, 15 years after smoking ban in Britain

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New data released on Friday (July 1) shows how public support has continued to grow despite a lack of progress on the policy front, 15 years since a smokefree legislation in Britain prohibited smoking inside public spaces such as offices, shops and pubs.

This was demonstrated by a new report ‘Fifteen Smokefree Years’ summarizing results from the annual survey carried out since 2007 by YouGov for the public health charity Action on Smoking and Health.

Around three quarters (74 per cent) of those who participated in survey supported the government’s Smokefree 2030 ambition.

The report said: “The public are way ahead of the government, and right behind recommendations made to the Health and Social Care Secretary for the forthcoming Tobacco Control Plan by Javed Khan’s independent review.”

Three quarters (76 per cent) support making tobacco manufacturers pay a levy to fund tobacco control and smoking cessation, 83 per cent support requiring retailers to be licensed to sell tobacco, 70 per cent support increased investment in public education campaigns, 67 per cent support warnings on cigarettes, and 62 per cent support making seating areas outside restaurants, pubs and cafes smokefree.

These are all measures recommended by the Khan review, the report added.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said: “Three years since the Government announced its ambition and over a year since a new Tobacco Control Plan was promised, there’s no time to lose.

“Hundreds of children still start smoking every day and we’re nowhere near achieving the Government’s Smokefree 2030 ambition. Javed Khan’s independent review sets out a clear programme for action, supported by the public, now it’s time for Government to deliver.”

In 2022, three quarters (76 per cent) of the public supported government intervention or thought the government should do more, with only six per cent thinking the government was doing too much.

Bob Blackman MP, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Smoking and Health, said: “YouGov’s fifteen years surveying public opinion show clearly that people want government to do more, not less to end smoking, and levels of support have grown over time.

“A large majority of voters for all the political parties, including my own, support the Government’s Smokefree 2030 ambition. They also support interventions recommended by Javed Khan’s independent review for the Secretary of State for Health, without which the Government won’t achieve its ambition. The Government needs to listen to the public and implement ambitious plans to end smoking without further delay.”

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