Every year in the UK, an estimated 205,000 children start smoking. In light of the European MPs plan to tighten tobacco regulations, it is clear that the changes in selling laws has been created with young people in mind. Mary Honeyball MEP comments that the increase of childhood smoking is “an area where Europe lags behind other parts of the world, and one where clear action is required”.
The Labour MEPs celebrate that “perfume” and “lipstick” cigarette packaging, which was originally aimed at girls and young women, are to be banned. Glamourising smoking by the packaging shows how industry has targeted young women making them almost 2.1 times more likely than men to take up the habit.
However, should it be an element of education of young people to stop smoking as well as the added publicity of the health risk that goes along with lighting up?
A study conducted by Ash (Action on Smoking and Health) shows that 2012, 31% of young people wish to kick the addiction and 74% of children have tried one or more ways to stop . This then supports the findings that drug education, when interactive and directed at youths, decreases levels of smoking. This then draws up the question: if more compulsory health education surrounded smoking would it stamp out the habit for good?
The ban of flavoured cigarettes is also thought to target the younger spectrum of smokers. This is due to the view that the flavours such as chocolate, vanilla and clove are a “gateway” into an addiction. It is also thought that the flavoured – specifically menthol- are harder to give up therefore creating a more harmful situation. The NHS and NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) conducted a study that proved if a young person is exposed to increased levels education on the topic that is supported by a form of mass media; they are less likely to start smoking. That being said, creates a question of whether different varieties of cigarettes need to be banned to prevent young people from smoking? By using an element of Social Learning Theory – where the person learns in a social context – children are then more socially influenced not to smoke creating a view that certain types of cigarettes don’t necessarily need to be banned.
The ban that will be in action as of 2016 plans to see fewer children starting smoking however, despite the health benefits of the ban, many MEPs were concerned about job losses in the industry or whether it would actually decrease the number of children and teens picking up a packet. Phillip Morris Tobacco Company suggests that with the tighter regulations, up to 175,000 people in Europe will be made unemployed and will cause 5 billion Euros in lost tax revenues, going against European Parliaments plans of tackling unemployment.
The soon-to-be ban on menthol cigarettes also disproportionately affects ethnic minority smokers. Just across the pond, the mint flavoured cigarettes are favoured by 80% of the smoking African-American population. Many black advocacy groups have voiced complaints that the European Parliament has not taken the preferences of minority communities into account when writing the legislation.
The legislation that has scrutinized the amount of advertising a company can have on their box to the amount of cigarettes we receive in a pack has created mixed reactions and opinions from many members of the public (and the TCC office!) who may be affected by the tightening of the regulations. However, will we actually see a decrease in youth smoking by taking away the chocolate flavoured cigarette or will the sales of regular cigarette’s increase?