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We must fight to maintain what we’ve got.


Paul Hooper, Co Director of the Tobacco Control Collaborating Centre, finds his tobacco control voice again….


A week or so ago I was surprised to read a letter in my local newspaper (Birmingham Mail) that was suggesting that tobacco control measures didn’t work.

There were a couple of worrying issues for me. The author requested anonymity; the opinions seemed to be based on misinformation; the conclusion was  that tobacco control was a waste of time and the whole thing seemed to be timed to coincide with World No Tobacco Day.

I accept that I may have been reading too much into this but after over 30 years of being targeted by the tobacco industry I hope I may be forgiven for conspiracy theorising.

This was my reply

In response to the question raised by ‘Name and address supplied’ – YES the anti-smoking measures are working.

Advertising of tobacco has been banned for ages but we now have standardised packaging and concealed displays that protect our children from tobacco industry marketing. Minimum pack sizes, graphic health warnings and high taxes make cigarettes even less appealing. The age of sale of tobacco has increased to 18 and smoking is prohibited not only in workplaces and public places but also in cars where children are present. Importantly smokers themselves have access to help to quit. Through this comprehensive control of tobacco fewer people are smoking; fewer young people are starting to smoke and individuals, families and society as a whole are both healthier and financially better off.

The UK can be proud of the progress that has been made to reduce the death, disease and misery caused by smoking tobacco. Of course we should not be complacent. This week saw the World Health Organisation (WHO) highlight the global issue of tobacco and its impact on the poor in society. Across the planet tobacco still kills 7 million people a year and costs 1.4 trillion US Dollars in healthcare and lost productivity. In this country at least we are doing all we can to reduce this.

The result was a lead letter a few days later but the lesson must be that to maintain what we have achieved we still need to fight misinformation wherever is comes from.


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