Tuesday 24 April 2012

Does tobacco control actually 'work'?

I've got an article up at Spiked today asking whether the current anti-smoking orthodoxy, which I describe as neo-prohibitionist, is successful at actually getting people to stop smoking and improving health.

One obvious question is never asked - does this strategy of hyper-regulation and ‘denormalisation’ actually work? By one measure, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. In 2006, the anti-smoking movement created a ‘Tobacco Control Scorecard’, a hit parade which Britain and Ireland have consistently topped thanks to uncompromising smoking bans, sky-high tobacco taxes and retail-display bans. Plain packaging should help the UK maintain the top spot next time the list is compiled.

 Trebles all round, then? Not quite. After declining steadily for years, Britain’s smoking rate has been flatlining since 2007, while Ireland’s eye-wateringly high cigarette prices have made the Emerald Isle the capital of black-market tobacco in Western Europe. If stigmatising smokers and annoying the tobacco industry is the aim of tobacco control, our two countries reign supreme, but if the goal is to improve public health we should take a lesson from the country that comes a mediocre ninth on the scorecard: Sweden.

Please do read the whole thing. There are also some very fine articles from Rob Lyons (on Jamie Oliver) and Patrick Basham (on plain packaging).


Anonymous said...

I recently started smoking again - not a lot, just a cigarello or t a day. I can still do 9km in 45 mins on the cross trainer in the gym so I reckon I'll be 90 before I start to feel any ill-effects.

And if that pisses off the anti-smokers, then hoorah. I'm a fully paid up member of the awkward squad.

Anonymous said...

Therefore, the issue is not individual rights. The question is what is the best strategy to get people stop smoking. Best strategy for whom?

Anonymous said...

Why get anyone to quit! Its an individual choise and nobody elses business.

dearieme said...

There's another way to look at all this. Now that cigarette smokers have been effectively banned from making my eyes smart and my clothes stink, I have no incentive to see them further restrained. So leave off, I cry. Let them suck teabags filled with baccy if that's what they want. They've had good manners finally forced on them and that's quite enough.

Anonymous said...

Dearieme, when are you going to finally have good manners forced on you. A gag might be a good idea.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear. Dearime is spewing out her poinonous nonesense again.

Why did you insist, prior to 2007, on going where disgusting, filthy, stinnking smokers went? There were lots of pubs, restaurants, hotels, places of entertainment, etc where smoking hadly existed. Where on earth did you go prior to 2007 where you deliberately put yourself in danger?

Frankly, I do not believe a word you say.

Anonymous said...

44 years of anti-smoker, tobacco control spending billions of dollars to accomplish nothing!!

In the USA over the years from 1965 to 2009:
The number of current smokers has stayed about the same and the number of people who have tried smoking, altho they stopped, has gone up by over 200%.

Current smokers are about the same number

Ever-smokers are up by about 46%

Ex-smokers are up by over 200%


(numbers in millions)





Table 3: Number of Adults Who Were Current Smokers By Sex, Race and Age, Selected Years, 1965-2008

Table 15: Percent of Adult Former Smokers by Sex, Race, Hispanic Origin, Age and Education, Selected Years, 1965-2008
(NOTE: This is the percent of ever-smokers-GK)

Gary K.

Anonymous said...

"Britain’s smoking rate has been flatlining since 2007,"

The same percent of an ever-growing population means there are actually MORE adult smokers.

Here is an example, not actual population numbers.

26% of 35 million = 9.1 million

26% of 40 million = 10.4 million.

Percentage stays the same; but, the number of smokers goes up by 14%.

Gary K.

Anonymous said...


I think you'll like this one. An analysis of the taxation vs. health costs of alcohol and tobacco in Australia. Truly stunning!

[PS. What is refreshing is to read the comments. Although this is on a libertarian blog, sometimes you think there aren't many like-minded people around anymore.]


Mallon said...

Just to gently correct your Irish figures. Year on year before the ban (2004), the numbers smoking were dropping naturally. In 2005, the official rate was down to 23.5%. Last year, Eurostat reported that it stood at 31% and the Government figure is 29%.

Strange indeed !!!