These sorts of graphs need to be taken with a pinch of salt, because lots of people who occasionally smoke don’t class themselves as smokers, and so the numbers are probably an under-estimate. But it’s interesting to see that UK smoking prevalence among 20-24-year-olds has climbed to nearly 30% over the last few years. And that over-6os (like me) aren’t quitting.
He also links to Heresy Corner‘s theory that the decline in smoking led to the smoking ban – a sort of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. The piece has another graph:
This shows an uptick in male smoking over the last couple of years. And it also shows that, since the 2007 UK smoking ban, smoking prevalence has barely fallen at all. Which rather suggests that the smoking ban, the display ban, and numerous intensive media campaigns have actually succeeded in halting the previous steady decline in smoking prevalence. i.e. it’s all been counterproductive.
Which makes sense to me. Prior to the 2007 smoking ban, I never actually ruled out giving up smoking, although I never seriously considered doing so. But now that antismoking bullies are trying to get me to, it’s become completely out of the question. I’ve dug my heels in. I won’t give in.
Which leads me to suspect that the (probably antismoking) Heresiarch is wrong when he writes:
The likelihood is that smoking rates will continue to tail off – although, as the end of the graph shows (the part that coincides with all the recent anti-smoking measures) the decline won’t be nearly as steep as it was in the 70s or 80s, or even the early years of this century. That’s because the practice is now largely confined to a hard core of addicts and contrarians.
The graph neatly illustrates my longstanding principle that in public health policy the sledgehammer is only brought out once the nut has already been largely cracked. It’s only when the number of smokers was reduced to a small, and increasingly unpopular, minority that it became politically advantageous to clobber them. Prior to that, the law was based on gentle persuasion (such as small-scale warnings on packets that merely informed purchasers that “smoking can seriously damage your health”) along with the general background noise of official disapproval, public education and well-publicised “quit smoking” campaigns.
Because I suspect that, if anything, smoking rates are actually likely to slowly rise. First of all because hard-core contrarians like me will now never give up smoking. But also because of the new cachet smoking has acquired since the law was invoked against it: you have to be a real rebel to take up smoking now. And indeed, some 30% of young people aged between 20 and 24 are sufficiently rebellious, it seems. Such people are hardly “hard-core addicts” or even “contrarians”: they’re just normal kids.
But it’s more than just that. There’s now a vocal resistance movement to the antismoking juggernaut, as there never was before. It simply didn’t exist. Tobacco Control is now meeting mounting grass-root resistance all over the world. On my blog, the Black Lung Lie is my most-read article, and How to Hand-Roll Ciggies is another favourite. In the past, Tobacco Control completely defined the message that people received about smoking – but now there are many more sources of information available to them.
Anyway, in the spirit of dogged resistance, I’d like to draw attention to Pat Nurse’s renewed Octabber Resistance to the bullying Stoptober. I’ve put the logo back in my sidebar. She wants 28 people to explain why they’re not going to quit. Perhaps one or two readers would care to oblige her. I know that Brigitte intends to.