Shopping Cart


Your shopping bag is empty

Go to the shop
How tougher smoking laws save lives

Smoking Legislation and Their Impact

Tobacco advertising in the UK started in the late 1800s, and by the early 1900s, even doctors were promoting cigarettes. In 1962, more than 70% of British men and 40% of British women smoked. During this time, tobacco companies sponsored TV shows and hired famous celebrities for their ads. However, serious concerns about the health effects of smoking began to emerge. A decade earlier, the British Medical Journal suggested a link between smoking and lung cancer, but it took years for the medical community to agree on this.

By the early 1960s, the Royal College of Physicians had enough evidence to push for a ban on tobacco advertising. In 1965, the Television Act 1964 led to a ban on tobacco ads on TV, but this had little effect on smoking rates. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that significant steps were taken to reduce smoking. The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002 banned most forms of tobacco advertising and promotion, including in print media and billboards, and later extended to direct marketing and sponsorship. A ban on tobacco sponsorship of global events came in 2005.

In 2007, the legal age for buying tobacco was raised from 16 to 18, and smoking in public places was banned. A ban on vending machine sales followed in 2011. Starting in 2012, tobacco products were no longer displayed in large stores, and later in all shops. A University of Stirling study found that this display ban reduced smoking among teenagers by decreasing brand awareness.

The most significant decline in smoking rates has been among 11 to 15-year-olds, dropping from around 20% in 1982 to just 2% today. Similar reductions have been seen in older teenagers and adults over the past two decades. An anti-smuggling strategy in 2000 significantly reduced the availability of cheap, illegal cigarettes. Cigarette prices have also risen sharply, with a packet of 20 cigarettes costing £12.84 on average by January 2023, compared to £1.68 in 1990.

A tax escalator reintroduced in 2010 and a minimum excise tax in 2017 further increased tobacco prices. Additionally, cigarettes are subject to 20% VAT. Deborah Arnott, CEO of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said that smoking rates have declined rapidly due to a combination of measures, including advertising bans, public smoking bans, raising the age of sale, plain packaging, and display bans.

Efforts to make smoking less appealing have included bans on misleading terms like ‘light’ or ‘mild’ and requirements for graphic health warnings on packaging. In May 2016, the UK became the second country to introduce standardized packaging.

Despite these efforts, reaching the goal of a "smoke-free" society by 2030, where only 5% of the population smokes, is still a challenge. In 2022, 12.9% of UK adults still smoked. In October 2023, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a new law to prevent children born in 2009 or later from ever being legally sold cigarettes, aiming to create the first "smoke-free generation." This legislation could almost completely phase out smoking among young people by 2040.

Alizee Froguel, Cancer Research UK's prevention policy manager, emphasized the need for continued support to help people quit smoking, noting that it remains the leading cause of cancer, with 150 cases in the UK every day.

Read more about smoking and cancer in our blog here.

How Vaping Can Help Stop Smoking

Vaping, the use of e-cigarettes, is often promoted as a less harmful alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes. While not without risks, vaping can be an effective tool to help people quit smoking. Here’s how vaping can assist in the transition away from smoking:

  1. Nicotine Replacement: Vaping provides a way for smokers to get nicotine, the addictive substance in cigarettes, without the harmful tar and many of the toxic chemicals found in cigarette smoke. This can help reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

  2. Behavioral Substitution: Smoking is both a chemical and a behavioral habit. Vaping mimics the act of smoking, providing a familiar hand-to-mouth action and inhalation process, which can be comforting for smokers trying to quit.

  3. Gradual Reduction: Many e-cigarettes allow users to control the level of nicotine they consume. Smokers can start with higher nicotine concentrations and gradually reduce the amount over time, making it easier to wean off nicotine altogether.

  4. Fewer Harmful Chemicals: Although not completely risk-free, e-cigarettes generally contain fewer toxic substances than traditional cigarettes. This makes vaping a less harmful option for those who find it difficult to quit smoking immediately.

Supportive Evidence

  • Public Health England: Reports from Public Health England suggest that e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful than smoking traditional cigarettes. They have advocated for the use of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool.

  • Studies and Trials: Various studies have shown that vaping can be effective in helping smokers quit. For example, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that e-cigarettes were more effective than traditional nicotine replacement therapies (like patches and gum) in helping smokers quit.

Considerations and Precautions

While vaping can help smokers quit, it is important to consider the following:

  • Not for Non-Smokers: Vaping is not recommended for non-smokers, especially young people, due to the potential for nicotine addiction and other health risks.

  • Quality and Regulation: Users should choose reputable brands and be aware of the regulations in their country to ensure they are using safe products.

  • Potential Risks: Vaping is not without risks. Some studies suggest that long-term use of e-cigarettes could have negative health effects, although they are generally considered less harmful than smoking

Vaping can be a useful tool for smokers looking to quit. It offers a way to manage nicotine cravings and reduce exposure to harmful chemicals found in traditional cigarettes. However, it is important to approach vaping with caution and awareness of the potential risks. Smokers considering vaping as a cessation tool should seek advice from healthcare professionals to ensure they are using it safely and effectively.