Feature Public Health

Is the UK government still serious about reducing smoking?

BMJ 2017; 356 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j1426 (Published 22 March 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;356:j1426
  1. Sophie Arie, freelance journalist, London, UK
  1. sarie{at}bmj.com

The lack of a tobacco control plan since 2015 could damage recent gains in reducing prevalence, Sophie Arie reports

On 20 May, the UK is set to take a huge stride in efforts to stop people smoking. It will become the second country in the world, after Australia, where cigarettes can be sold only in standardised, plain packaging.

Yet at the same time, concern is growing that the current government is letting other crucial tobacco control policies slip, policies that have greatly reduced the prevalence of smoking in recent years.

Since 1998, successive governments have put in place consecutive plans for tobacco control measures in England—from legislation and taxation to increasing public awareness of the harm caused by smoking and helping people to quit. Under those plans, smoking prevalence among adults has dropped by over a third, from 28% to under 18% in 2015.1 Smoking among young people fell from 11% in 1998 to 3% in 2014.2

Yet the last plan3 expired at the end of …

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