Page last updated at 14:19 GMT, Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Smoking ban lessons from abroad

By Peter Jackson
BBC News

Cigarette
In Canada, smoking rates among 15 to 19 year olds fell by 10% in five years

Encouraging people to quit smoking by banning the display of tobacco in shops is not a new idea, but examples from overseas suggest it may be an effective one.

Iceland was the first in 2001, followed by a province of Canada a year later, and both countries have seen youth smoking rates fall.

As a similar ban is announced for England and Wales, what are the lessons to be learnt from overseas?

Displaying cigarettes at the point of sale has a direct impact on young people's smoking habits, according to research at the University of Stirling.

The Centre for Tobacco Control Research said 46% of UK teenagers were aware of the displays, with those who intended to smoke more likely to recall brands they had seen at the point of sale.

Research by the Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer in Australia and Stanford University in the United States confirmed this.

It found that displays "normalised" tobacco use for children and created a perception that it is easily obtainable.

Wider plan

In Iceland, which has the longest experience of any such ban, smoking among 15 year olds fell from 18.6% in 1999 to 13.6% in 2003 - two years after the law was introduced.

Rates have continued to drop and in 2007 stood at 11.1%.

In Canada, smoking rates among 15 to 19 year olds fell from 29% in 2002 to 19% in 2007 - five years after the first ban was introduced.

There are now 12 out of 13 Canadian provinces and territories that have adopted the measure.

Martin Dockrell, policy manager of health campaign group Ash, told the BBC it is important to see any ban as part of a wider plan.

He said: "Countries which have a comprehensive strategy on tobacco control bring in point of sale and advertising restrictions and have the fastest declining smoking prevalence.

"This is what the government is planning. Its new strategy is part of a wider plan and this is crucial."

These are not products like bread and milk and sweets, they are very different, killer products
Professor Simon Chapman
University of Sydney

Tasmania will ban the display of tobacco in shops in 2011 and other parts of Australia are considering doing the same.

Health expert Professor Simon Chapman of the University of Sydney said a ban would send an unmistakeable message to communities.

In an interview with Australian broadcaster ABC, he said: "These are not products like bread and milk and sweets, they are very different killer products.

"Countries which have implemented it [the display ban] - notably Canada in 12 provinces and Thailand - have among the fastest accelerating downward trends in tobacco smoking in the world."

Mr Dockrell, from Ash, said the Canadian province of Saskatchewan clearly illustrated how the ban was effective in cutting smoking.

In Canada in 2002, overall youth smoking was going down but not in Saskatchewan.

After the ban was introduced in 2002, smoking rates fell amongst the province's youth, until the smoking industry won a judicial review to halt the ban.

Soon afterwards, youth smoking levelled off again, and it was not until the government reinstated the restrictions in 2005 that youth smoking rates dropped once more.

Thailand implemented its law prohibiting tobacco product displays in the same year followed by British Virgin Islands in 2007.

The British Heart Foundation estimates that 46,000 children in the UK bought cigarettes from vending machines in 2006.

That accounts for nearly one in five young smokers aged 11 to 15.

The government says it will first apply age restrictions on cigarette vending machines from 2011, then consider a full ban after that.

It will consult on the methods of doing this, including the use of tokens, and machines which can only be operated by staff once ages have been checked.

A complete ban on tobacco sales from vending machines exists in Vietnam, China, Hong Kong, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, Bermuda and two US states.

In Europe, it was introduced in Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, France, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia.

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SEE ALSO
Tobacco display ban discussed
09 Dec 08 |  Health
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