Public call for tougher restrictions on buying tobacco in Britain
People in Britain strongly support restricting the sale of tobacco near schools and raising the legal age of sale to 21, finds a new SPECTRUM study.
26 August 2022
The research, published in Tobacco Control, examined data from the Cancer Research UK and SPECTRUM-funded Smoking Toolkit Study, which has surveyed approximately 1,700 adults each month from England since 2006, and 2,200 adults each month from England, Scotland and Wales, since 2020.
A collaboration across UCL, The University of Edinburgh and Cardiff University, the research team examined data from September 2021, which asked participants about their views on potential policies targeting the availability of tobacco and cigarettes.
Strong public support
The results indicated that most of those surveyed supported retailers having their license revoked if they sold tobacco products to those under-age (89.6%) and for restrictions on the sale of cigarettes and tobacco near schools (69.9%).
Meanwhile, half (49.2%) thought that the legal age of sale for cigarettes and tobacco should be raised to 21, compared with just under a third who were opposed to the idea (30.7%).
Participants were also in favour of reducing the number of retailers selling tobacco in neighbourhoods that already had a high density of tobacco retailers – with almost half (46.5%) showing their support, compared with less than a quarter (23.3%) who disagreed.
There are around 6.9million adult cigarette smokers in the UK, who spend approximately £15.6billion a year on legal and illicit tobacco.
Currently the law prohibits the sale of tobacco products to those under the age of 18. And previous studies have shown that a ban on the sale of tobacco products near schools could stop children from taking up the habit.
In 2019, the UK Government set an objective for England to be smokefree by 2030, meaning only 5% of the population would smoke by then. However, a recent report by Dr Javed Khan OBE, highlighted that particularly poorer areas may struggle to reach this target unless the rate of decline of people who smoke is accelerated by 40%.
The use of cross-sectional observational data and potentially unmeasured covariates limits the ability to infer causality between included variables (namely sociodemographic and smoking and quitting characteristics) and support for policies. The sample sizes for the sub-group analyses in Scotland and Wales analyses may also be underpowered.
Data on support for tobacco availability were collected during one survey wave, and if further data were collected the results may change.