Stubbing it out: Could the UK soon be a smoke-free zone?

Watch: Philip Morris CEO Predicts End of Cigarette Sales in UK Within 10 Years

Marlboro cigarettes will be pulled from sale in the UK within the next ten years, it has been announced. 

Philip Morris International (PMI), the tobacco company that owns Marlboro, revealed a hope that customers will either quit smoking completely or move to "better alternatives", such as e-cigarettes or heated tobacco devices. 

The company plan to stop selling traditional cigarettes in the UK before 2032, meaning the Marlboro brand would "disappear".

“PMI can see a world without cigarettes—the sooner it happens, the better it is for everyone," Dr Moira Gilchrist, vice president of strategic and scientific communications, at PMI told Yahoo UK.

“Quitting is the best option, but for those who don’t, science and technology has allowed companies like ours to create better alternatives to continued smoking.

“Encouraging people who don’t quit to switch to these better alternatives, together with strong regulation will help solve the problem of cigarette smoking once and for all.

“With the right measures in place PMI can stop selling cigarettes in the UK in 10 years’ time.”

Read more: This county plans to be the first smoke-free region in the UK

Could the UK soon become a smoke-free zone? (Getty Images)
Could the UK soon become a smoke-free zone? (Getty Images)

Could the UK soon become smoke-free?

Despite figures suggesting tobacco use has been declining in the UK for decades, 14.1% of UK adults still smoke, which equates to around 6.9 million of the population.

Smoking is responsible for 77,600 deaths a year in England alone and it remains the primary preventable cause of ill-health and premature death. 

As a result, the UK has been pretty forthcoming in its attempts to cut the nation's smoking habit. 

It was one of the first countries to ban smoking in public places in 2007 and introduced plain packaging for cigarettes in 2016.

In further proof the country intends to up its anti-smoking efforts, in July 2019, the government stated its ambition of going “smoke-free” in England by 2030.

"This includes an ultimatum for industry to make smoked tobacco obsolete by 2030, with smokers quitting or moving to reduced-risk products like e-cigarettes," a white paper published by the UK's Department of Health and Social Care stated. 

Watch: Smoking ban in the UK has increased wellbeing. 

The drive to waft away the smoke may actually be helped by the coronavirus pandemic, according to Abbas Kanani, pharmacist at Chemist Click.

"We are typically seeing an increase in people looking to give up smoking," he tells Yahoo UK. "Since lockdown restrictions have increased, we have seen a 200% increase in people having consultations for our stop smoking service. 

"In fact, there is currently a national shortage of Champix, an effective medication used in smoking cessation programmes - this may be due to so many people wanting to give up smoking."

Read more: More than 300,000 UK smokers may have quit due to coronavirus, survey finds 

The government plans to make the UK smoke-free by 2030. (Getty Images)
The government plans to make the UK smoke-free by 2030. (Getty Images)

According to Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), one million people have stopped smoking since the pandemic, which is the highest number of people quitting in a decade.

Meanwhile figures from revealed that since the start of 2021, searches for ‘how long does it take to quit smoking’ have grown 130%, while demand for smoking helplines has jumped 150%. 

Kanani believes this can be attributed to people wanting to make a change after lockdown.

"Coupled with the fact that smokers were at a higher risk of developing complications from COVID, which may have been a reality check," he adds.  

Philip Morris, the company responsible for Malboro, have invested heavily in the launch of their IQOS product, which is heating tobacco, as opposed to smoking it. 

"The aim of this is to give a smoking experience, whilst emitting 95% less harmful chemicals than cigarettes (according to IQOS)," Kanani continues. 

"Whilst this may not necessarily equate to 95% less risk, it is thought that this is a healthier option than smoking." 

There is also an increasing number of smokers taking up vaping, with figures revealing there were around two million vaping devices sold in 2016, which increased to 16 million in 2017. 

Read more: Children as young as 11 are being prescribed nicotine patches by the NHS

Marlboro has announced plans to stop selling cigarettes in the next decade. (Getty Images)
Marlboro has announced plans to stop selling cigarettes in the next decade. (Getty Images)

But while the government certainly looks focussed on the goal of making the UK a smoke-free zone, a warning that smoking will kill more people than COVID from Prof Chris Whitty, the government’s chief medical officer, is a stark reminder of the importance of the target. 

"Smoking is gradually drifting down over time, but it is still a very major cause of mortality," he said in a lecture at London’s Gresham College.

"The standard estimate is that it causes over 90,000 deaths every year.

"So this year and last year, it is likely more people will have died of smoking-related disease than COVID."

With that in mind, the drive for a smoke-free country remains a crucial target. 

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