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Public backs plans for a ‘smoke-free’ Wales

(Adobe Stock)

New figures released show the majority of Welsh adults support plans for Wales to become smoke-free. The figures come just weeks after Welsh Government unveiled its plans to reduce the number of adult smokers in Wales to 5% or less by 2030.

The annual YouGov survey run by the tobacco control charity ASH Cymru gathers the opinions of over 1,000 adults in Wales and examines how society views smoking in terms of behaviour, attitudes and government action.

The new figures reveal the majority of Welsh adults (68%) support Welsh Government in setting a target to end smoking in Wales, by reducing smoking rates to 5% by 2030. In contrast, only 10% of Welsh adults opposed this move.

Internationally a 5% smoking rate is viewed as the threshold that grants a country the status of ‘smoke-free’. The Welsh Government has launched a new strategy to reach this status, which will mean reducing smoking rates from 13% (2022) to 5% by the end of the decade. The strategy has been launched to help combat the harms of smoking, which is estimated to claim over 5,000 Welsh lives each year.

In terms of public opinion in Wales, the newly released survey also shows strong support for a range of existing and new tobacco control measures, with support increasing around policies that protect children.

The latest figures mark that an overwhelming majority (89%) of Welsh adults support smoking bans in children’s play areas, up from 83% in 2017. In 2021, Wales became the first country in the UK to legislate for bans on smoking at playgrounds and school grounds.

Furthermore, the majority of Welsh adults (83%) were in support of requiring businesses to have a valid licence to sell tobacco, which can be removed if they sell to underage smokers more than once. Only 4% of Welsh adults opposed this move.

In other areas of regulation, 61% of Welsh adults support raising the age of sale for cigarettes from 18 to 21. Majority support for this area has not dropped below 60% in the last three years.

The new figures also map evolving perceptions of smoking in Wales, and mark how society has changed its views on smoking prevalence. This year, only 48% of Welsh adults thought that smoking was a common practice, a steep decline from 67% in 2016.

Other areas of the Welsh smoking landscape were examined in the survey, which in turn marked strong support for the following:

  • 84% support the banning of cigarette butts that contain plastic, to help protect the environment.
  • 67% support increasing investment in public education campaigns on smoking.
  • 71% believe that all Government health policy should be protected from the influence of the tobacco industry.

Most poignantly, the survey gauges public approval of tobacco use in Wales, as this year’s survey asked respondents whether they thought people in general approved or disapproved of smoking. The majority of Welsh adults (62%) thought that people disapproved. In contrast, only 6% believed people approved.

The newly released results have been hailed as progressive by the tobacco control charity ASH Cymru, who have urged the Welsh Government to take the results into account within its efforts to address smoking. Suzanne Cass, CEO of ASH Cymru, said:

“The Welsh Government has recently published a bold tobacco control strategy that seeks to significantly reduce the death and disability caused by smoking in Wales.

‘Today’s survey shows strong majority support for many of the actions relayed in the Government’s new strategy, but most importantly, the survey highlights which actions matter most to our society.

‘There is solid support for actions that protect children, the environment, and improving education around smoking in Wales. I urge Welsh Government to approach these areas with renewed vigour in light of strong public support.”

If you are interesting in finding out more about smoking’s impact on Wales, or need support to stop smoking, please visit: ash.wales