Will smoking ever be banned in the UK?
How many smokers are there?
The number of smokers has steadily declined over the years. But as of 2020, 14.7% of the UK population are still smokers. This equates to around 6 million people. In the US, statistics report 12.5% of the population as smokers.
Given the host of health problems that smoking causes, it is natural to wonder if smoking nicotine will ever be banned in the UK.
The rise of the e-cigarette and vapes
Whilst the numbers of cigarette smokers have declined, the number of people using vapes and e-cigs has increased. One reason for this increase is people use them as a smoking cessation aid. Between 2012 and 2020, the number of vapers in the UK has risen dramatically. Recent statistics report around 6% of adults as vapers.
The smoking ban
In England, the smoking ban came into force in 2007. Since then, smoking has been illegal in enclosed public spaces and workplaces. Before the ban, lighting up in restaurants and bars was commonplace. Non-smokers rejoiced - no longer would they smell like an ashtray after a night out - whilst smokers were left standing out in the cold to get their smoke-fix.
No more going menthol
More recently, menthol has been taken off the menu for smokers. All products containing menthol such as flavoured tobacco, papers and filters have now all been banned from sale. It is thought that the addition of menthol makes cigarettes more palatable. This encourages people to continue smoking who would otherwise dislike the taste.
Countries with smoking bans
The first recorded smoking ban occured in Mexico in 1575. The use of all tobacco products in churches was banned. Since then, other bans have been enforced around the world. In 2023, New Zealand plans to introduce a much stricter law. This will prevent anyone aged 14 and under in 2023 from ever being able to purchase cigarettes.
New Zealand aims to become smoke-free by 2025, so the proposed ban supports this aim. It does, however, lead to a strange consequence… If you are 32 years old in 2040, you will be able to buy tobacco. But someone aged 31 would be breaking the law. Crazy, right?
The advantages of smoking bans
There are a number of pros to banning smoking. Plenty of arguments for it have been suggested.
- Saves lives - reduces the number of smoking-related diseases
- Reduction in the number of smoking related admissions to hospitals
- Saves money on healthcare treatments
- Savings made by not buying expensive tobacco products
- Reduces pollution, improves air quality and other environmental effects
The disadvantages of a smoking ban
For those on the other side of the fence, there are some cons to banning smoking.
- Loss of freedom of choice and individual civil liberties
- Prohibition failures - could lead to sales being made underground on the black market instead
- Loss of money made on smokers tax
- Difficult to implement and police
- Will cost the Government money to sustain the plan
What’s the problem with nicotine?
Nicotine comes from plants. So what's the big deal about nicotine? It is a naturally produced chemical from the nightshade family of plants - the tobacco plant being the one with the highest concentrations. Other nightshade family plants include tomatoes and potatoes. The nicotine contained in these plants is miniscule though, so don’t even think about it!
What does nicotine do to your body?
The problem is that nicotine is highly addictive. It actually changes the chemical balance in your brain.The effect it has on the brain - also known as the dopamine hit - is what gets smokers hooked. It causes both physiological and psychological dependence.
The initial effects of nicotine on the body include:
- Feelings of relaxation
- A temporary ‘high’
- An increase in heart rate
- A dopamine hit
These effects are short-lived though, which increases the desire to light up again and again. This craving for the buzz leads to addiction and an increased use of tobacco products.
Nicotine can also cause side effects, including:
- Increased blood pressure
- Shortness of breath
- Heart rate changes
- Risk of peptic ulcer
- Sleep disturbances
Although nicotine in itself does not cause cancer, the chemicals found in tobacco do. The severe health risks associated with smoking are widely known. From respiratory illnesses to heart disease to cancer, the dangers are real.
The zero smoking target
The UK government has an ambitious plan to eradicate smoking entirely by 2030. Banning smoking is just one of the ways the Government plans to improve the health of the nation.
Their proposal includes these measures:
- Offer more smoking cessation services
- Give all hospital patients admitted the treatment to quit
- Charging tobacco manufacturers fees
- Include quitting advice in every pack of cigarettes
Stricter nicotine laws
Nicotine has already been subject to changes as a result of Government intervention. Regulations now state the maximum volume of refill containers with nicotine e-liquid is 10ml. The strength of these is not allowed to be more than 20mg/ml. Ingredients such as colourings and caffeine are banned and packaging must be child-resistant.
But although there are plans to prevent the smoking of nicotine in tobacco products, the sale of nicotine e-cigarettes and vapes is likely to continue. These are generally considered safer alternatives to smoking tobacco. They are also used by smokers as a way to reduce their dependence on cigarettes and eventually stop smoking altogether.
New laws for under-25s?
As part of the smoke-free plan, there are moves to prevent under 25s from buying cigarettes. It is thought that if young people aren’t able to buy cigarettes, they won’t get hooked on nicotine. They also won’t have a desire to start smoking in the first place. That’s the idea anyway. But who doesn’t crave something they’re not allowed to have…?
So, although there are plans to prohibit cigarettes by 2030, whether this actually happens remains to be seen. The amount of funding, smoke cessation services and resources needed will determine if or how the proposed smoke-free plan will play out.
If all this talk of banning smoking has got you riled up, it’s the perfect time for a relaxing puff on your Ripple+. As an alternative to smoking, they deliver a nicotine-free hit of pure pleasure.