Tobacco control policy in the UK: blueprint for the rest of Europe?

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Abstract

Introduction: With male smoking prevalence at ∼30% in 1998, the UK implemented stricter tobacco control policies, including a comprehensive cessation treatment programme. We evaluate their effect. Methods: Data for the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) are applied to ‘SimSmoke’, a simulation model used to examine the effect of tobacco control policies over time on smoking initiation and cessation. Upon validating the model against smoking prevalence, the model is used to distinguish the effect of policies implemented between 1998 and 2009 on smoking prevalence. Using standard attribution methods, the model estimates lives saved as a result of policies. Results: The model predicts smoking prevalence accurately between 1998 and 2009. A relative reduction of 23% in smoking rates over that period is attributed to tobacco control policies, mainly tax increases, smoke-free air laws, advertising restrictions and cessation treatment programmes. The model estimates that 210 000 deaths will be averted by the year 2040, as a consequence of policies implemented between 1998 and 2010. Conclusions: The results document the UK’s success in reducing smoking prevalence and prolonging lives, thereby providing an example for other European nations. When Framework Convention for Tobacco Control- (FCTC) consistent policies are also implemented, the model projects that smoking prevalence will fall by another 28% with an additional 168 000 deaths averted by 2040.

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