Public support sees councils take the lead
Despite the continued telling of those apocryphal tales such as “My old great-granddad had his first fag when he was nine, smoked 40 a day all his life and lived ‘til he was 95,” the slogan “Dying for a Fag”’ still carries an accurate and most potent warning. Smoking kills. Fact. And since 2006, when smoking was banned in all workplaces, on public transport and in bars and restaurants, the number of smokers and deaths from smoking related diseases has fallen significantly. The ban was credited with generating a big drop in tobacco use in the UK. Some people choose to continue to smoke, but in certain places and areas lighting up is going to become much more difficult – even impossible. Oxfordshire is to ban smoking outdoors, aiming to become the first “smoke-free” county in England by 2025.
Bars, restaurants and workplaces will be targeted in the anti-smoking crackdown. And five councils – Northumberland, Durham, North Tyneside, Newcastle and Manchester – have already banned smoking at venues where outside seating is available. Additionally, all licenses now granted by Gateshead Council stipulate that outside areas must be smoke-free. The Covid-19 outdoor eating culture has given increased visibility to the issue of smoking outside pubs and cafes, and there was an attempt last summer to push through amended legislation to make pavements smoke-free, which failed at the House of Lords stage. The government wants England to be smoke-free; meaning in official terms that only 5% of the population smokes by 2030.
Unsurprisingly, the moves by the various local authorities to ban outside smoking has drawn the fire of pro smoking group, Forest (The Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco). Forest director, Simon Clark, said “It’s no business of local councils if adults choose to smoke, and if they smoke outside during working hours that’s a matter for them and their employer, not the council.” However, anti-smoking groups like Ash (Action on Smoking and Health) are fully in favour of the changes, while England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, has said that the impact of tobacco is worse than Covid. Generally, tobacco related diseases are estimated to kill 90,000 per year in the UK, and Mr Whitty said in a recent lecture, “Lung cancer is now the UK’s number one killer in cancer. Almost one in five people will die from this.”
What our surveys show
There was a time when part of going to the pub meant returning home smelling of smoke – whether or not you were a smoker. Now it’s different, although some remain disturbed by smoking outside pubs, on pavements, or in pub gardens, particularly if there are children present. In our survey there was a small majority support, 53%, who said they “strongly agree”, 29%, or “somewhat agree”, 24%, that smoking should be banned in all public places.
But within those supporting such a ban, there were significant generational differences. While only 17% of those in favour were of the Gen Z, the youngest generational group, 42% were Traditionals, the oldest group. And more women, 34%, than men, 24%, were in the overall figure in favour of a ban. A significant number though, 37% in total, remain opposed to banning smoking outside our pubs, restaurants and other public places, with 18% saying they “strongly disagree” with the the moves already underway and any further bans, and 19% saying they “somewhat disagree”. The remaining 10% said they don’t know.