Smokers woke up on the morning of May 20th to a multi-pronged attack. Shops were banned from selling the cheaper packs of 10 cigarettes and smaller pouches of tobacco (under 30g) were prohibited. Further changes to the appearance of cigarette packaging have come into effect, making them plainer (although it is debateable whether or not this has any impact). In addition, flavoured tobacco has vanished; smokers have had to say goodbye to fruit, herb, vanilla and spice flavoured products – and menthol is now being phased out too. Combined with another increase in price, it is likely that a sizeable number of smokers will see this as an opportune time to switch to vaping or quit altogether.
Public Health England states that one in six people still smoke although a truly impressive half a million smokers gave up in 2015. Research conducted by the UK Health Forum led the body to conclude that “If smoking rates dropped to five per cent in the UK by 2035, the NHS could save £67million” every year.
The benefits would be more than simply financial, as “achieving this target would avoid nearly 100,000 new cases of smoking-related disease including 35,900 cancers over 20 years.”
Plus, more there’s an additional benefit to the nation’s economy: “The impact of this health improvement amounts to a saving of £67m in direct NHS and social care costs and an incredible £548m in additional costs to the economy in 2035 alone.”
Professor Paul Lincoln, UK Health Forum chief executive, said: “This study highlights the huge burden that smoking places on our society, particularly on the poorest and least advantaged groups. Unless we reduce the demand on the NHS from preventable causes of disease like smoking, it will be difficult to continue to provide sustainable healthcare for everyone who needs it. We hope that by showing the clear benefits of this tobacco free ambition, we can inform tobacco control policy in the UK and even worldwide.”
Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s director of cancer prevention, said: “Bold and ambitious targets are needed to save the thousands of lives and millions of pounds of NHS money lost to tobacco. We want the next Government to share our ambition for the next generation of children to grow up ‘tobacco-free’. This target should be at the heart of a new strategy to tackle smoking. Measures like sustained funding for Stop Smoking Services, mass media campaigns and increased tax on tobacco all have the potential to help smokers to stop, and create much-needed revenue to support programmes that will reduce the burden on our health service.”
Most vapers will have seen stores and online retailers preparing for the May 20th deadline by slashing prices on stock that became illegal. It remains to be seen whether the changes brought in by the government hinder those looking to switch to vaping from smoking. These include: tiny 2ml atomisers, a limit of 10ml per juice container, and a maximum eliquid nicotine strength of 20mg.