A new survey from the not-for-profit Cancer Research UK shows the amount of smokers in the United Kingdom has fallen to its lowest level ever. Researchers believe this sharp decline in UK smokers is directly related to the smoking restriction laws put into place ten years ago.
These harsh laws made it illegal to smoke in public places like offices, pubs, and restaurants. By making smoking less socially acceptable, Cancer Research UK believes less young people have been tempted to start the habit.
The data from Cancer Research UK shows that the number of adult smokers dropped from 10.2 million in 2007 to 8.3 million in 2016. Interestingly, the greatest decline in smokers was in the 16 to 24-year-old age bracket. Smokers in this younger demographic represented 26 percent of the smoking public in 2007, but now it's only 17 percent.
Cancer Research UK also conducted a survey asking 4,300 British people whether or not they would consider getting rid of the ban on smoking in public spaces. Only 12 percent of respondents said they wanted the law reversed.
Another survey put out by Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) supported Cancer Research UK's findings. The Ash survey found that 83 percent of Britons favor smoke-free legislation. That's a significant increase from 78 percent in 2007.
Sir Harpal Kumar, the chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said he was pleased to hear about the rapid decline in UK smokers. He told reporters, "It's rewarding to know that this effort will go on to have a great impact on the health of future generations." Although this is a great trend, Kumar also said there's still a great deal of work to be done to improve public health.
Duncan Selbie, the Public Health England chief executive, said the legislation on public smoking has helped to change the smoking culture in England. Youngsters growing up in the modern UK are no longer subjected to the harmful effects of second-hand smoke nor are they encouraged to pick up the habit. Mr. Selbie believes this legislation literally saved thousands of people from premature deaths.
The UK cities that have the most smokers tend to be in the north of England. A few cities where the percentage of adult smokers is over 20 percent include Blackpool, Manchester, Hartlepool, and Blackburn with Darwen. The cities with the least smokers are cities like Richmond upon Thames, Wokingham, and even London.
While most health officials believe the cause for this dramatic drop in UK smokers has to do with legislation over public smoking, some groups disagree. The smokers' group Forest says all of these studies don't take into account the rise in e-cigarette usage. As a Forest spokesman put it, "The most substantial fall in smoking rates happened after 2012, a period that coincided with the increasing popularity of e-cigarettes."
As everyone knows by now, smoking increases the likelihood of developing lung cancer, having a heart attack, or dying of a stroke. In terms of eye health, people who smoke are at a greater risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and cataracts.