Tobacco smoking is known to be a major health problem among many since the product is known to have up to 60 carcinogens among them nicotine and carbon monoxide (Owing, 2005). Currently the smoking prevalence in the European region is estimated to be about 28.6% with the male having a higher percentage of 40% as compared to the female who rank at 18.2%. Health experts have always pinpointed smoking as one the killer habits contributing to high cases of mortality and many health hazards CITATION WHO07 l 1033 (WHO Regional Office for Europe, 2007). In that regard many government have put measures to curb the habit. In this presentation we shall focus on the smoking trends and limitations put by governments within the period 1974-1999 divided in 1974-1984 and 1985-1999.
Tobacco smoking in Britain has been on the decline in the past 50 years. It is believed that in the period beginning 1974 the country experienced the highest decline in smoking. This is compared to 1940s when prevalence was a high as 82%.
Prevalence of smoking in the Great Britain for the period 1974-2012
% 1974 1978 1982 1986 1990 1994 1998 1998 2002 2006 2010 2012
Men 51 45 38 35 31 28 28 30 27 23 21 22
Women 41 37 33 31 29 26 26 26 25 21 20 19
All 45 40 35 33 30 27 27 28 26 22 20 20
Note: Retrieved from ash.org.uk smoking statistics with information originating the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey, 2012.
Based on the above statistics it is evident that the period 1974-1984 experienced a slower decline in tobacco smoking as compared to the later period.
The fact that this period was the first to experience such huge decline implies there must have been a general change in public attitude towards the habit. In this case the government played the role as a regulatory body to curb a common habit that had become a vice. To control smoking habit among the people the British government used price increase to keep tobacco prices high. This was done through the introduction of taxes. Due to addiction effect of nicotine contained in tobacco the decline in the number of smokers was not very large even the though the habit is concentrated among the low income earners (Ewles, 2005).
Despite the low smoking prevalence in the period 1974-1984 as compared to earlier years, rights of non-smokers were not recognized. The government focused more of reducing smoking rates rather than reducing the effects imposed by tobacco smoke on third parties. Smoking in public was not regulated as smoking zones did not exist and not much research had been done of how the smoke can affect non-smokers without their consent. Individuals were free to smoke in public as no law enforced by the government was in place to control them. It is not just smokers who did not recognize that non-smokers have their rights but also non-smokers were not aware that they had rights to a smoke free environment.
Generally the number of women smoking had also declined compared to earlier years. The trend continued to later years. Even though there was a decline still the number was high based on the statistics that by 1974, 4 in every 10 women were smokers. This figure dropped and by 1984 it was 3 out of 10. In this period of time smoking among women wasn’t looked from the negative side but it came to be a concern when it was done in pregnancy. Despite lack of much research about the effect of smoking in pregnant women in this period, there was general belief in the public that it was not ideal for a pregnant woman to smoke. A pregnant woman smoking was seen as irresponsible and not caring about the child she was carrying. The concern here was about the wellness of the child whom the woman was carrying since he/she was being exposed to the dangers of tobacco. However, such public concern did not affect the trend because smoking among pregnant women was common with women from low social class.
The question whether decline in smoking was to the advantage or a disadvantage of all is an issue of concern. While tobacco industry was a big contributor to the tax revenue of the nation and created jobs, the same industry was linked to health and socio-economic challenges. In the period discussed many of the affected parties were the low class citizens who could otherwise used their funds in the right way rather than smoking. It problem worsened if they got health complications as this rendered them uneconomical. The efforts put by the government in this period to curb tobacco smoking were of great value because they focused on building the future nation rather than gaining tax revenues at the expense of the future.
In this period of time the trend in tobacco smoking were in decline until 1994 when they remained constant. In general what this statistics imply is that the smoking prevalence in Britain may have begun to be constant at a rate of one smoker in every for individuals among the adults. The trends here show that the number of women smokers was also getting closer to that of their male counterparts of which stand at 28% as compares 29% in men by 1994. Smoking among the young too increased in this period especially among the teenagers. Despite the low prevalence percentage as compared to preceding periods, the worry was about the stability trend. The trend showed that unless action be taken the prevalence rate in Britain would have begun to rise again CITATION Roy00 l 1033 ( Royal College of Physicians of London. Tobacco Advisory Group., 2000)Smoking during pregnancy was an issue of concern especially among the young and unemployed ones. This is because during this time much awareness had been created about the negative effects of smoking especially in pregnant women. Smoking in pregnancy had been known to cause immature birth and the children of mothers who smoked during pregnancy risked “neo-natal mortality or sudden infant death syndrome, of asthma or wheezing illness in the first years of life CITATION Roy00 l 1033 ( Royal College of Physicians of London. Tobacco Advisory Group., 2000).” On the other hand there was public perception that smoking during pregnancy affected the normal growth of the child both physically and intellectually. With this kind of information within the public a pregnant woman smoking was seen as not caring of the wellness of her child. Although a large number of women continued to smoke during pregnancy, statistics by the Health Education Authority (HBE) in 1999 showed that 10% of women who were smoking before pregnancy stopped the habit.
Much awareness was also created of how smoking is likely to affect people who are not smokers but come into contact with the smoke. It was well known that an individual smoking in public is likely to cause more harm to individual who inhale the smoke. In that regard the government came with rules meant to discourage smoking in the public. This was based on acceptance even among the smokers that non-smokers had rights to a clean environment. It is in this period that the government adopted policies that limited places where an individual could smoke. This was aimed at discouraging further increase in the number of smokers who could be easily influenced and also meant to protect the rights of non-smokers.
To curb smoking the British government put more efforts in price increase through the use of taxes. However, this did not been seem to work due to various reasons attached to smoking among them being the addictive nature of the product. It is well known that nicotine substance contained in tobacco is addictive and price increase could not prevent individuals from continuing to use the product. On the other hand the legality of tobacco made it is easier for smokers to get it from cheaper sources that taxation didn’t affect.The government also turned to campaigns through the media that targeted the youth to discourage the habit among them being banning of cigarette adverts. However, such campaigns were known to have poor results in terms of outreach among the young people. The hurdle the government was facing here is that in this period the young were affected as compared to the later whereby focus was put more on the adult population.
The actions by the government to put restrictions on smoking were of great importance to the society. Within this period of time most firms in the UK were manufacturing their products outside the country unlike in the 1974-1984 when tobacco products were produced locally. This meant that no jobs were created for the locals within the country unless in fields like sales, marketing and distribution. Looking into the retail sector cigarettes were sold as secondary products since retailers had other products they majored in hence low returns from the tobacco products. On the side of the consumer it is known that in UK tobacco products are priced in a way that most of the cost is excise duty. This implied that expenditure on the products did not stimulate the economy high as compared to other goods bought by the consumer (Ewles, 2005).
Through the restrictions imposed the society benefited in terms of cost savings and a healthier population. This in turn benefitted both the government and citizens through saving on funds that could otherwise be used for health purposes. On the other hand the efforts to curb smoking were of great help to the future generation which could easily adopt to low smoking rates. Rules on public smoking also played an important role in societal wellbeing as they gave non-smokers their rights of a clean and healthy environment.
Owing, J. H. (2005). Trends in smoking and health research. New York: Nova Biomedical Books.
Royal College of Physicians of London. (2000). Nicotine addiction in Britain: A report of the Tobacco Advisory Group of the Royal College of Physicians. London: The College.
Ewles, L. (2005). Key topics in public health: Essential briefings on prevention and health promotion. Edinburgh: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone.