A new report out today commissioned by Philip Morris Ltd has said that at current trends it will take another 23 years for the UK to become smokefree. (The definition of smokefree is smoking rates below five per cent). If smoking then continued to decline at the same rate after 2040, it would reach 0% in around 2051.
The report observes that "smoking is in long-run decline, but since 2012 it has declined at more than twice the rate seen between 1993 and 2011. Smokers switching to e-cigarettes appear to have made a material contribution to that recent trend." The last point reiterates what many other reports have said: the free market has been responsible for a sharp decline in smoking rates rather than endless Government interference.
There has been a marked decrease in the number of smokers switching to vaping, though. According to Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), there were only 100,000 new vapers (so far) in 2017, compared with 800,000 in 2014. But that is hardly surprising when you consider how big the numbers have been. It was always going to be diffcult to maintain that trend.
The report goes on to say that:
"The Government’s target of reducing smoking to below 5% could be met as soon as 2029 if the faster rate of decline since 2012 were maintained. If that trend continued further, smoking would be eliminated in England by 2035.
"Meeting this target by 2029 would require an additional 2.5 million smokers to quit over and above those we already expect to quit in our central forecast. This is equivalent to around 210,000 extra quitters each year."
Unless you have been living on the top of Mount Everest for the last 50 years or so, you know that smoking is not beneficial for your health. Many people continue to smoke because they enjoy it. They weigh up the risks and decide its worth it. Many others would like to quit, but still want to enjoy nicotine. But vaping is not going to be for everyone. Many smokers have tried e-cigarettes and have failed to stop smoking. 'Heat not burn' is an alternative, as is snus. (Government, please note, that once we leave the EU we can and should reverse the ridiculous snus ban) I am sure there will be other technologies coming on to the market in future years, too.
I just want the market to innovate without Government interference. It can do that much more easily once we leave the EU if UK politicians and civil servants allow it. As Chris Snowdon said in his excellent report for the Institute of Economic Affairs last week:
"In any list of unnecessary and counter-productive EU regulation, the recent laws on e-cigarettes must be near the top. No one benefits from these arbitrary regulations and they have been widely criticised by politicians and health experts alike. If we don’t repeal low hanging fruit like this after Brexit, we won’t repeal anything"
Post-Brexit is the time to repeal this low hanging fruit and increase the number of people choosing to use nicotine in safer ways. And it can't come soon enough.