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Poll: Public believe tackling obesity and alcohol abuse more important than further anti-smoking measures

Tue 9th June, 2015

A major new national poll released today shows that the public believes anti-smoking laws have gone far enough.

The Populus survey of a representative national sample of more than 2,000 people carried out on Wednesday and Thursday last week also found that people in Britain are strongly against the use of taxpayers’ money to lobby government.

Conducted on behalf of smokers' group Forest, the poll found that a majority of adults oppose bans on smoking in public parks and private vehicles.

Tackling smoking was considered to be the lowest in a list of government priorities for the National Health Service, behind even obesity and alcohol issues

And in a sign that voters now believe some regulations have gone too far, more than half (57%) would allow well-ventilated designated smoking rooms in pubs and private members' clubs.

The poll comes the day before the publication of a report by Action on Smoking and Heath (ASH) that will recommend further tobacco control measures following the introduction of the tobacco display ban and standardised packaging.

Government priorities for the National Health Service

Asked to rate government priorities for the National Health Service, respondents rated investing in new doctors and nurses as the highest priority.

Addressing response times at A&E was the second highest ranked priority overall. Improving general waiting times was ranked third.

Among the issues listed, tackling smoking was the lowest priority, behind tackling obesity and alcohol misuse.

Use of taxpayers' money to lobby government

Over three-quarters (77%) think that taxpayers’ money should NOT be used to lobby government.

Smoking in outdoor public parks

A majority of respondents think that smoking should be permitted in outdoor public parks; 53% versus 47% who say it should not be allowed.

Smoking in private vehicles

Over half (55%) believe adults should be allowed to smoke in private vehicles when children are not present; 45% think they should not be allowed.

Smoking in pubs and private members' clubs

More than half (57%) think pubs and private members’ clubs, including working men's clubs, should be allowed to provide a well-ventilated designated smoking room to accommodate smokers; 43% say they should not be allowed to provide smoking rooms.

Smoking on stage

Opinion is divided evenly on whether actors should or should not be allowed to smoke on stage when smoking is integral to the plot or storyline, with 50% saying they should and 50% saying they should not.

Smoking and mental health

Opinion is split on whether smokers with mental problems should or shouldn’t be allowed to smoke in the grounds of psychiatric hospitals, with 48% saying they should, and 52% saying they should not.

Three fifths (61%) of those who have a long-standing mental health condition believe that smokers with mental health problems should be allowed to smoke in the grounds of psychiatric hospitals.

Simon Clark, director of Forest, which campaigns against excessive tobacco control regulations, said:

"It’s clear there is no strong desire among the public for a further programme of tobacco control measures.

“There is however very strong opposition to NGOs using taxpayers’ money to lobby government to introduce those measures.”

He added: "Smoking isn't good for you. We get it. But this is not just about health. Tobacco is a legal product and government must take into account other factors such as choice, personal responsibility and, dare I say it, pleasure.”

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