The report, Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use Among Young People in England, was conducted by the NHS and the Office for National Statistics, and looks at the rates of smoking, drinking and drug use among school pupils aged 11- to 15-years-old. The conclusion to draw from it is that the UK could become totally smoke-free by 2040.
The head of Phillip Morris Ltd spoke to The Sun and said that if an extra 210,000 quit each year then that date could be brought forward rapidly: “We want a smoke-free country as soon as possible - 2040 is too long to wait.” Of course, some may suggest that if the likes of Phillip Morris stopped selling cigarettes then that might help matters.
Alyssa Best, Cancer Research UK “We urge the government to prioritise tobacco control so we can achieve the goal of a ‘smoke-free generation’. This continued decline in regular youth smoking has been made possible by effective tobacco control measures over the years, such as tax rises to make tobacco less affordable, and standard packs to make cigarettes less desirable.”
The figures come from a survey of secondary pupils in England, carried out regularly since 1982. More than 12,000 pupils in 177 schools completed questionnaires in the autumn term of 2016. Around half of pupils who had ever smoked said that they had only tried smoking. The remaining half was split fairly evenly between regular, occasional and previous smokers. The proportion of pupils who had ever smoked increased with age, from 4% of 11 year olds to 36% of 15 year olds. Girls (20%) were more likely to have tried smoking than boys (18%).
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of campaign group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said that while the figures are positive more needs to be done: “It is the higher rates of adult smoking in poorer communities that are the main reason for lower life expectancy. The Tobacco Control Plan must be fully implemented and adequately funded if we are to succeed in tackling the burning injustice that those born poor die on average nine years earlier.”
Credit for the fall was taken by The Association of Convenience Stores chief executive, James Lowman, who said: “These figures show that retailers are continuing to make significant progress toward eliminating the sale of age restricted products to young people. Industry initiatives like Community Alcohol Partnerships, Challenge 25, the Proof of Age Standards Scheme and others which promote consistent messages to retailers about underage sales are clearly having a positive impact.”