Limiting child access to cigarettes – Coalition must enforce health act

Our guest writer is Tom Yates, a working NHS doctor

Last month, health minister Andrew Lansley said his Department would “tell Parliament in due course”  whether it intends to implement measures, contained in the 2009 Health Act, banning cigarette vending machines and point of sale advertising of cigarettes. This was hardly re-assurring.

In the UK, cigarettes cause much more premature mortality than obesity or alcohol. One in two smokers will die from their habit. The poor smoke more than the rich and cigarettes are a major reason why poor men, across the developed world, are twice as likely to die in middle age (35-69) than rich men. In England and Wales, differences in rates of smoking explain 59 per cent of this excess risk.

Limiting children’s access to cigarettes is important – 40 per cent of adult smokers started smoking before the age of 16. The coalition have not yet committed to implementing the part of the Health Act that bans cigarette vending machines, a key measure to control child smoking.

Whilst only one in 100 cigarettes are bought from vending machines, one in eight regular smokers aged eleven to fifteen access their cigarettes in this way.

Bans on tobacco advertising reduce cigarette consumption and, given the large numbers of deaths attributable to smoking, even small decreases in consumption lead to significant falls in mortality. However, to be effective they need to leave tobacco companies no loopholes – no Camel Boots or Marlboro Classic Clothing.A comprehensive World Bank review concluded:

“Policymakers who are interested in controlling tobacco need to know whether cigarette advertising and promotion affect consumption. The answer is that they almost certainly do, although the data are not straight forward.

“The key conclusion is that bans on advertising and promotion prove effective, but only if they are comprehensive, covering all media and all uses of brand names and logos.”

Tobacco companies responded to the 2002 Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act, which banned most forms of cigarette advertising, by producing new variants of existing brands, thereby increasing the impact and size of point of sale displays. If implemented in full, the 2009 Health Act will put a stop to large backlit point of sale displays, moving all cigarettes below the counter.

The tobacco industry and shop keepers are protesting loudly but their concerns about rises in tobacco smuggling and small retailers going out of business ignore the bigger picture.

Richard Peto argues that progress in reducing premature mortality is mostly made though small victories against major killers. He is right and the time to act is now.

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41 Responses to “Limiting child access to cigarettes – Coalition must enforce health act”

  1. Lucy V Hay

    RT @leftfootfwd: Limiting child access to cigarettes – Coalition must enforce health act writes Tom Yates on @LeftF …

  2. Billy Blofeld

    Government can legislate all it likes – and kids will still find a way to smoke. Ask a 13 year old.

    In fact – the more government legislates against smoking, the more attractive it become for kids. Kids are attracted to things they are restricted from.

  3. Martin Johnston

    RT @leftfootfwd: Limiting child access to cigarettes – Coalition must enforce health act writes Tom Yates on @LeftF …

  4. Anon E Mouse

    Tom Yates – Being a non smoker since the ban came into force I agree that we should try to stop kids smoking but not by stopping things like Marlboro clothing – that’s just silly.

    That is treating children as if they are stupid – I think most probably are but in advertising they do know the difference.

    And where would it stop. Hereford United are sponsored by Cargill – the owners of Sun Valley Poultry who make McDonalds chicken nuggets – so should they be banned with obesity being out of control in the Western world?

    And beer advertising. Would you stop that? Because if not then why not?

    I know that the way that the Labour Party behaved over tobacco advertising in respect to Bernie Ecclestone was disgraceful but it was certainly consistent.

    It would be hard to deny the way Labour supports the interests of big business over the needs of the poor and where peoples health is concerned I think you are on the right lines.

    I feel the messages needs to be more refined than the one you advance though…

  5. Guppi Bola

    RT @leftfootfwd: Limiting child access to cigarettes – Coalition must enforce health act writes Tom Yates on @LeftF …

  6. Alan W

    @Billy Blofeld

    If government legislation really makes smoking more attractive, then presumably the tobacco industry should be its biggest supporters.

  7. Steve Topol

    Limiting child access to cigarettes – Coalition must enforce …

  8. smokeanywhere

    Limiting child access to cigarettes – Coalition must enforce …

  9. Richard Gadsden

    I’m disappointed that LFF has chosen to illustrate this piece with a photo of attractive young women smoking, rather than something that doesn’t pander to the tobacco lobby’s marketing.

  10. merthyr_bill

    smoking does have negative health effects that’s for sure. it also has positive ones and you have to take these things in the round. smoking is the greatest preventer of Alzheimers there is. if you ask me, i’d rather drink and smoke and heart attack at 60 than live til 90 spending the last 20 years dribbling and not knowing my own name. it’s about quality as well as quantity.

  11. Hackney Martin

    Since the tobacco ad ban the number of teenage smokers has dropped by half.

    Advertising brings in fresh new customers that’s why they do it. After all, between them Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco have 80% of the UK market. If promotions really only encouraged smokers to switch brands then the duopoly would save themselves a fortune by colluding not poach punters.

    Check out for a beautiful example of how the industry tries to get round the ad ban to promote smoking with iPhone give aways and music festivals. Rizla, of course is a subsidiary of Imperial Tobacco.

    enter via

  12. Wendy Maddox

    RT @leftfootfwd: Limiting child access to cigarettes – Coalition must enforce health act writes Tom Yates on @LeftF …

  13. Rob Hughes

    RT @leftfootfwd: Limiting child access to cigarettes – Coalition must enforce health act

  14. Andrew Brown

    Limiting child access to cigarettes – Coalition must enforce health act | Left Foot Forward

  15. Billy J

    @Merthyr_bill – it’s false dichotomy time is it?! Heart attack at 60 or 20 years dribbling and demented… don’t think so, and quite old fashioned really. Haven’t you heard of the golden generation of old folk, showing the youngies how its done???

  16. Hazico_Jo

    RT @drugforum: Limiting child access to cigarettes – Coalition must enforce health act | Left Foot Forward

  17. RobH

    simplistic suggestions that increased legislation lead to smoking being more attractive defy both common sense and the growing body of research evidence… Based on this sort of rationale we should remove the ban on smoking in bars despite the mounting evidence that it has been a great success.

    And as for the suggestion that smoking has benefits… I have seldom heard a more horrifying argument. Try making it to someone tied to an oxygen cylinder for years and then facing a slow painful death from lung cancer. Such arguments distract from the science that shows smoking is the leading cause of premature mortality in our country.

    We and the opposition should keep up the pressure for this progressive legislation to be implemented in full.

  18. Tom Yates

    I think the myth of the happy smoker is just that. A majority of smokers want to stop and there are many people disabled with heart failure or emphysema at too young an age. My understanding is that the Alzheimers story is without basis (see and certainly ofset by good numbers of people with stroke or vascular dementia – both more common in smokers.

    On the other point, I think we kid ourselves if we think Malborough clothing is anything other than a means of pushing a particular brand of cigarettes, though proving an effect would clearly be difficult. Chicken nuggets and beer cause much more happiness and much less premature mortality than cigarettes and, in most, are not habit forming.

  19. Mr. Sensible

    MerthyrBill, I never heard of that; who said that?

  20. merthyr_bill

    who said what?

  21. Dave Atherton

    Tom Yates exhibits the worst kind of Marxist Self Consciousness. All people like Yates do is make the “forbidden fruit” of tobacco to teenagers more attractive. The net effect of display ban in some provinces of Canada was to increase teenage smoking, increase smuggling, (Canada’s black market is now 25% of sales) and 15% of convenience stores closed. Fail, fail, fail!

  22. Belinda

    One in eight children chooses to buy 16 cigarettes for the price of 24? Pull the other one.

  23. merthyr_bill


    A majority of people want to lose weight and many want to run a marathon or climb everest. doesn’t mean they are unhappy.

    you claim ‘beer is not habit forming’!!! pull the other one!

  24. Left Off

    Welcome Dave
    Sources and context matter here on LFF so are you the same Dave Atherton of the right wing “progessive”-conservativ website? And would that be the same Patrick Basham of the tobacco industry funded neocon think tank the Cato Insititute?

    Left Footers might rather trust the Canadian Government for statistics on Canadian youth smoking. They don’t line up with Dave’s analysis. They say, “the prevalence of youth who reported that they had never tried smoking remained unchanged”, but then, as the biggest provinces have only rid themselves of tobacco displays in the last year or so, it is bound to take some time to see the benefits

    So Dave, can you explain why Philip Morris say smuggling has fallen in Canada in the last year? They say that Canadian governemnt action against smugglers has increased the legal market by 20%.

  25. Belinda

    You’ve just answered your own question, haven’t you? Government action against smugglers. I don’t think anyone is arguing that Government shouldn’t take action on smugglers. It doesn’t follow that the people who want to trade illegally won’t take advantage of every restriction placed in the way of legal traders. And they don’t have to check children’s ages either.

  26. Dave Atherton

    Yes that is me, although classical liberal and free marketeer as opposed to right winger maybe more apt. On smuggling in Canada:

    As reported in the Toronto Golbal Post 4/12/09

    “Cigarette smuggling rises in Canada”

    “The black market in cigarettes is believed to be a $1.5 billion industry in Canada. The Ontario government estimates that half of all cigarettes sold in the province are illegal. In neighboring Quebec, that number is 40 percent. Contraband smokes cost the federal and provincial governments more than $2 billion in lost taxes.”

  27. Dave Atherton

    Display bans deter teenagers from smoking ? Here are the statistics for the 15 – 19 year olds smoking prevalence in Canada – the youngest age bracket Statistics Canada computes.

    2006 (display ban in 1 or 2 of the smaller provinces only) smoking prevalence: 15%

    2007 (display ban came into force in all but one small province) smoking prevalence: 15%

    2008 smoking prevalence: 15%

    2009 smoking prevalence: 13% (a not statistically significant difference according to Statistics Canada. The decrease occurred in the 17 to 19’s, while the 15’s to 17’s remained identical to 2008)

  28. Joseph Clift

    RT @leftfootfwd: Limiting child access to cigarettes – Coalition must enforce health act

  29. BHF

    Doctor Tom Yates:Coalition must implement ban on tobacco vending machines &displays email your MP

  30. ProstateCancerRC

    RT @TheBHF: Doctor Tom Yates:Coalition must implement ban on tobacco vending machines &displays email your MP http: …

  31. Rob Duncan

    RT @TheBHF: Doctor Tom Yates:Coalition must implement ban on tobacco vending machines &displays email your MP http: …

  32. Jemma Harford

    RT @TheBHF: Doctor Tom Yates:Coalition must implement ban on tobacco vending machines &displays email your MP http: …

  33. Left Off

    Are you saying Philip Morris are wrong and their sales haven’t gone up 20%. Somebody should warn them

  34. Left Off

    Whoops! Hello Belinda! The tobacco astroturfers have found LFF. All sensible discussion is now probably over.

  35. Left Off

    I just realised you seem to have retracted your false claim that youth smoking in canada went up after POS was introduced. Well done mate! Are you going to promise not to repeat it again? We’ll see eh?
    Repeat after me “the prevalence of youth who reported that they had never tried smoking remained unchanged”

  36. Belinda

    Sorry I forgot to include my website details. You’re the one ceasing the sensible discussion if you call your opponents names instead of proceeding to discuss the subject properly.

  37. Left Off

    Astroturfing is when people fake grass roots. You and Dave are stalwarts of the organisations calling itself “Freedom to Choose” and the two of you appear to make a lot of posts on the tobacco issues from a very particular perspective. F2C types aren’t usually regulars on LFF.

    I intend only to provide context to regular left footers and they can make their own judgements. I wouldn’t consider that name calling.

    Thanks for posting your affiliation to F2C, albeit belatedly.

  38. Will Beefhurst

    LO has a point for once. You say that youth smoking went up after the display ban then you immediately post that it went down (a bit), Which one of your statements is false?

  39. ToryBater

    You’ve gone all quiet mate. You weren’t so shy on the New Statesman site attacking Peter Kellner. Thanks to LO I’ve been checking you out. You made 6 consecutive posts including some highly dubious “facts”. I especially liked the poll you quoted from the Edinburgh Evening News, but you forgot to say it was done back in 2003. You weren’t trying to mislead us were you Dave?

  40. Belinda

    what do you mean by ‘fake grass roots’?

    I take your point about wanting to provide a context but it looked as if you were encouraging readers to make snap judgements on what both Dave and I were saying, by calling me an astroturfer and Dave right wing.

    People in Freedom to Choose (and its Scottish counterpart) do not all have the same political persuasion. I am left of centre, Dave is not.

    You did say that sensible discussion would end with my arrival. Should I take that as a friendly welcome? 🙂

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