Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Fifteen-fold rise in tobacco control spending since 1999 but decline in smoking rate slows right down

On Friday 14 December Sheila Duffy of ASH Scotland speculated in an opinion piece on the possibility of a smoke-free future – one where smokers make up less than five per cent of the population.
Aiming for an adult smoking rate of five per cent or less in roughly a generation is an ambitious but an achievable target. It depends on effectively helping the 69% of adult smokers who say they want to be smoke-free to achieve their ambitions, and preventing children from becoming hooked on tobacco.[1]
She announces a tobacco control strategy to be launched by the Scottish Government in early 2013. It will show the way to reduce the smoking rate within twenty years to levels that might allow them to describe Scotland as ‘smoke-free’.

This effectively involves Scottish Government making policy decisions that will dissuade adults from making the decision to smoke. The graph below shows UK-wide smoking rates over around 60 years from 1948 (the solid lines), with the sharpest declines between the mid 1960s and 1990, most of it before tobacco control was a major government policy issue:

Smoking prevalence and lung cancer incidence, by sex, Great Britain, 1948–2007[2]
Click to enlarge
It is immediately evident that the rate of decline has slowed in both genders since the middle of the 2000s. Scottish statistics on the smoking rate since 1999 are shown below:
Whether respondent smokes by year, 1999–2011 data, Adults (2011 base: 12,866)[3]
Click to enlarge
A slight and slowing decline in the smoking rate is clear. In November I submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Scottish Government in order to get a picture of how much money had been spent on tobacco control generally and smoking cessation specifically. The results are shown below:
Figures obtained from FOI request from the Scottish Government, December 2012
Click to enlarge
Viewed against the smoking cessation rate we have this:

Figures on tobacco control and smoking cessation expenditure obtained from FOI request from the Scottish Government, December 2012
Number of smokers taken from Scottish Household Survey reports

We can see that the decline in the smoking rate has slowed in spite of a sharp escalation of tobacco control spending in Scotland (spurting in the middle of the decade in preparation for the smoking ban). We must stress that the total smoking cessation expenditure on this graph is included in the total tobacco control expenditure and not additional to it. However Scottish Government total expenditure on tobacco control has increased by some 1500 per cent – and this figure does not even include expenditure by other bodies such as Cancer Research UK[4] and Big Lottery funding.

Two conclusions: (1) this represents an atrocious waste of public money, particularly in an age of austerity: the prescriptions of tobacco control have resulted in an attack on the hospitality sector and forthcoming restrictions will also inconvenience both smaller and larger shops, when the tobacco display ban is fully enforced. Tobacco control policies have also resulted in higher taxes on tobacco products, all of which favours illegal rather than legal tobacco suppliers.

And (2), if such a huge increase in expenditure has failed to persuade people not to smoke, it is hard to see what new initiatives could possibly make an impact. Certainly Sheila Duffy’s dream of driving the smoking rate down from 25 to 5 per cent of the population in the next twenty years is pure fantasy. She should be recommending an immediate cessation of all tobacco control expenditure.

1 comment:

Jonathan Bagley said...

In response to the 2010 Government ecig consultation, the major drug companies wanted ecigs immediately removed from the market. ASH Scotland was the only major part of the anti tobacco industry which wanted this option. ASH UK opted for removal after one year. Both amusing and tragic that tens of thousands of ecig users have stopped or cut down their tobacco use. It will be interesting to see how they respond to the first ecig TV advertising campaign and the explosion in ecig use that will result. Like the boy standing next to the fridge with icecream on his face, still ptote4sting his innocence? See Skycig.co.uk