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Smoking ban 5 years on

The smoking ban in public places and workplaces began in England 5 years ago this weekend, following on from bans in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. What effect has it had on health? What are campaigners focussing on now?
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith

29th June 2012 - This weekend marks the 5th anniversary of England's smoking ban, which followed enclosed public places and workplaces becoming smoke free in Scotland and Wales.
Five years on from the bans, what effect has it had on health? What are campaigners focussing on now?

Success of the smoking ban

The NHS says there was no significant difference between the prevalence of cigarette smoking in men and women before and after the ban. However, it seems reducing passive smoking or secondhand smoke has been more successful.

The campaign group ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) says the ban on smoking in public places has resulted in "significant health benefits".

Government figures showed that 12 months after the ban in England there were 1,200 fewer heart attack emergency admissions to hospital and fewer people are now exposed secondhand smoke.

The smoking ban in Scotland has also been linked with a big fall in premature and low weight births. A University of Glasgow study in March found that the number of mothers who smoked dropped from 25.4% before the ban to 18.8% afterwards.

Surprisingly, public smoking bans may not lead to more people lighting-up at home - in fact they may smoke less. A study was made of European countries with smoking bans in the journal Tobacco Control in February. After the public bans, the percentage of smokers who no longer allowed smoking at home increased significantly in all countries. It went up by 25% in Ireland and 38% in Germany.

Next steps

Each year in the budget statement, the government tend to put up the price of cigarettes and tobacco. This year it was 5% above inflation. The Chancellor George Osbourne said: "There is clear evidence that increasing the cost of tobacco encourages smokers to quit and discourages young people from taking it up."

The government has described smoking as one of the "biggest and most stubborn challenges in public health". More than eight million people in England still smoke and tobacco causes more than 80,000 deaths a year.

More public health steps have been taken since the smoking bans. Since May, all large shops in England selling cigarettes and tobacco now have to hide them behind screens or under the counter.

In October last year the sale of tobacco from vending machines was banned in England. One of the reasons for this was to deter young people from taking up smoking and buying cigarettes from unsupervised vending machines.

Government figures show nearly two-thirds of current and ex-smokers started smoking before they were 18. Thirty-nine percent were smoking regularly before the age of 16.

The focus on anti-smoking health campaigns now turns to cigarette packaging and exposure of children to smoke in cars.

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