On the 50th anniversary of the publication of the ground breaking report ‘Smoking and Health’, which revealed the death toll from smoking, leading doctors will today tell the government that much more needs to be done to prevent unnecessary deaths.
'Smoking and Health' published by the Royal College of Surgeons in 1962 became a landmark in raising public awareness, carefully listing risks and graphically illustrating the phenomenal rise in tobacco consumption in England.
At the commemorative conference today, the Royal College of Physicians sets out a stark warning about the current and future dangers of smoking, and details the key public policy areas for action to deal with the UK’s largest cause of preventable deaths.
The RCP wants:
- Higher prices - although heavily taxed, cigarettes are 50% more affordable now in the UK than they were in 1965, and real prices are undercut by discounting, small pack sizes and illicit supply
- To remove unnecessary cigarettes and tobacco brand imagery from films and TV programmes watched by children and young people
- Mass media campaigns to reach TV audiences at peak times, backed up with national, local and social media advertising
- The extension of smoke-free policies to parks and other public areas, and legal protection of children against smoke in cars and homes
- Better NHS cessation services, to reach out the 90% of smokers who do not currently use them each year
- Plain packaging for cigarettes to remove brand associations, which are particularly strong with young people
- Clean nicotine as an affordable and more attractive option for smokers
Since 1962, the RCP says UK smoking prevalence has fallen substantially but still over 20% of the population smokes - some ten million people. It warns that half of those will die from smoking, unless they quit. And while over 6 million people have died as a result of smoking since 1962 the RCP says at least 360,000 deaths have been prevented by the drop in prevalence of smoking since 1962.
Professor John Britton, chair of the RCP tobacco advisory group, said:
‘Smoking is still the biggest avoidable killer in the UK. Smokers smoke because of an addiction to nicotine that is usually established before adulthood. There is so much more that can and should be done to prevent the death, disease and human misery that smoking causes. Our government needs to act at the highest level to tackle smoking head on, and eradicate it from our society and particularly our children’s futures.’
Sir Richard Thompson, RCP president, said: “I hope that in another fifty years smoking, like slavery, will have passed into history.’