The first concerns from the medical industry over the effects of long-term smoking were raised in 1957. By 2007, just 50 years later, all but the actual personal choice to indulge in this habit had been bludgeoned in UK law, this being the year that smoking was banned in public places. Not everyone has welcomed this transformation (notably tobacco retailers) and although the lobbying and campaigning has cut the number of smokers by 40% overall, there are still parts of the country where almost half of adults smoke, the minimum legal age for smoking being 18.

The government collects tax (‘duty’) on sales of tobacco and this provides a hefty income (£10,277,000,000 in 2021-22, for example) which increases every year. Nevertheless, in 1965 it banned cigarette adverts on TV as a first blow against smoking’s sophisticated, convivial image. In 1971 the first of the compulsory health warnings on cigarette packs appeared and these have grown steadily larger up to the advent of ‘plain packaging’ in 2016.

Restrictions ratcheted up even further in 2014 with the all-encompassing Children and Families Act taking control of the marketing of tobacco products.  Shops now have to keep cigarettes ‘under the counter’ hidden from children’s beady eyes and smoking is banned in private cars carrying children.

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