Next week the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys will publish results showing that 13 per cent of teenagers under 16 now regularly smoke 50 cigarettes or more a week: in 1982 it was 11 per cent. Under-age smoking is certainly not falling, particularly among girls. Amongst women aged 16-19 it is rising. These are the crucial age groups. Someone who has not become a regular smoker by the age of 20 is most unlikely ever to do so.
The tobacco industry argues, rightly, that it is impossible to prove a direct causal link between the penetration of the pro-smoking message amongst young people and their propensity to smoke. But it is impossible to believe their claims that their intention is not to snare new smokers, only to fight for bigger shares of a declining market. Adult smoking is indeed in general decline but as smokers die (often from their habit) or give up, new smokers have to be recruited if the industry is to survive. Advertising and promotion helps to do that. The onus is certainly on the industry to prove that it does not.
Some people are turning to vaporizers to consume their favorite ingredients. These eliminate the many chemicals that result from combustion that have been shown to cause lung diseases. According to [font="Times New Roman", serif][url=https://www.bestvaporizereviews.com]www.bestvaporizereviews.com[/url], [/font]sales of popular vaporizers such as the Volcano have tripled in the past year.
The industry also maintains that advertising is needed to convey essential product information. For example, advertising might be used to encourage people to switch to low tar brands. But what essential product information is there, in the slashed silk of a Silk Cut advertisement, or the beguiling ingenuity of the Benson and Hedges advertisement? There is only a tar group, printed in black at the poster bottom, information that could equally well be provided by having tar tables displayed at cigarette outlets.
The decision to ban cigarette advertising and sponsorship is not an easy one for this or any other government. There are always practical problems in the fine print as well as the conflicting issues of principle. For Mrs Thatcher's administration these vary from unemployment in the tobacco industry to the effect of falling duty free tobacco sales on the privatized British Airports Authority; from the Department of Trade and Industry's ambitions to export more cigarettes to Japan to the Treasury's worries over the total tax and VAT take; from the Prime Minister's libertarian market principles to her concern for family life.
The course for the Government should, nonetheless, be clear. Over three years all tobacco advertising and promotion should be phased out, with legislation to enforce the ban at the end of that time. The effects of such a move would not be overnight to destroy an industry that still employs some 30,000 people. Many other factors, not least the real price of cigarettes, affect smoking habits. The evidence from Norway, where tobacco promotion has been banned since 1975, is that a steady increase in adult smoking was halted, but that no real decline has taken place. Amongst children, however, there has been a real fall.
The phasing in of a ban would give sport, which is itself increasingly questioning the ethics of allowing itself to be used to promote a product that damages fitness and health, to adjust to the loss of sponsorship. The tobacco companies currently put some pounds 10 million a year into sport. But corporate promotion is a growth area. Sport could, and should, find alternative sources of funds. The same is true for the arts.
The Government increasingly is looking to promote preventive health measures. Its planned green paper on family doctors will have that as a major theme. The biggest single act it could take would be a determined attack on smoking, the phasing in of a promotional ban linked to tougher health warnings and slow but steady increase in the real price of cigarettes. That last would allow the Treasury gradually to wean itself off the income from tobacco taxes. In the face of the overwhelming medical evidence on the danger of smoking, it is no longer enough just to say that smoking is declining and can be left to die out at its own rate. It is the industry that should be dying more quickly, not its customers.
Joan Richards's Blog
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