10 years on from ban, the number of UK smokers falls to a record low

In July 2007, a law came into effect that banned smoking in enclosed public places in the UK. Ten years on, the number of smokers has fallen by nearly 2 million

The number of smokers in the UK is at a record low, ten years after a blanket ban on smoking in Britain’s indoor public places was introduced. The ban was introduced ten years ago this week.

Since 2007, the number of people in the UK who smoke has dropped by 1.9 million to reach the lowest level since records began. New figures, published by Cancer Research UK, reported that there were 8.3 million smokers in 2016 compared to 10.2 million in 2007.

The law has played a key part in the huge cultural change we have seen in the past decade

Declaring that pubs, bars, clubs and other enclosed public spaces must be smoke-free seems to have led to several health benefits. Smoking-related deaths from heart disease and strokes are at significantly lower levels, and the number of respiratory problems in those often affected by second-hand smoke – including children and bar workers – is also down.

Attitudes towards smoking have also shifted. An ongoing YouGov survey showed that 78 per cent of respondents supported smoke-free legislation in 2007; a figure that has increased to 83 per cent today. The increase came primarily from smokers: among this group, support increased from 40 per cent to 55 per cent.

It has literally saved thousands from disabling chronic diseases and premature death

“The law has played a key part in the huge cultural change we have seen in the past decade, especially among younger people, a change that has literally saved thousands from disabling chronic diseases and premature death,” said the chief executive of Public Health England, Duncan Selbie.

The ban was introduced in Scotland in 2006, followed a year later by Northern Ireland, Wales and then England under the 2006 Health Act.

Despite the progress, smoking is still a major health issue and accounts for roughly one in every six deaths in England.


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