July 1st is the fifteenth anniversary of the UK’s 2007 smoke-free legislation prohibiting smoking in enclosed public spaces including offices, shops, and pubs – 15 years on, and with growing public support, Stop Smoking London celebrates this special anniversary and helping more Londoners stop.
Despite reductions in smoking prevalence over the last 15 years, smoking is still the leading cause of premature death and preventable illness in the UK. Smoking prevalence in London has dropped from around 22% in 2007  to 12% today, still almost a million people who smoke. More Londoners are trying to stop smoking because they are concerned about their future health, but fewer are turning to proven methods to do so .
In the wake of June’s Khan Review and the Fifteen smokefree years report published today by Action on Smoking and Health [HYPERLINK TBC], Stop Smoking London is calling on smokers in the capital to build on the success of smoke-free legislation, by taking greater advantage of evidence-based ways to quit, including face to face behavioural support, prescription medication, over the counter nicotine replacement therapy and e-cigarettes.
Dr Somen Banerjee, Co-Chair and Smoking Cessation Lead of the London Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH) said: “Londoners who stopped smoking 15 years ago, have by now reduced their risk of heart attack and stroke to equal that of a person who has never smoked. If you are one of these people, you have effectively turned the clock back on your life.
“If you are still smoking, there has never been a better time than now to stop, protecting not just yourself but those around you from the effects of second-hand smoke. You don’t need to do it alone. You are three times as likely to stop smoking successfully with local stop smoking support and Stop Smoking London’s website and helpline are the best place to start in accessing free, evidence-based, services.”
Support for smoke-free places has grown. In the ten years after the initial legislation came into force national support for smoke-free pubs and clubs continued to grow – from 78% in 2007 to 83% in 2017, primarily due to support from smokers increasing from 40% to 55%.  In 2022 74% of adults in London support the government’s ambition to reduce smoking prevalence to less than 5% with just 7% opposed. 
Debbie Purkis is an ex-smoker who is now a stop smoking advisor working with people with long-term conditions like cancer, COPD and mental illness and pregnancy in east London.
She said: “Looking back, before the ban, as a smoker it was fabulous – in those days you could smoke anywhere. We smoked on the trains in the pubs, in the cinema. I thought it was good. Now as a non-smoker I think it’s so important that they put this legislation into place. It’s saved thousands of lives.
Debbie decided to stop smoking after seeing her granddaughter pretending to smoke using a straw.
“When I think back now, I feel disgusted that I would ever smoke around children – it’s a terrible thing to do. But lots of us did it, it was the norm. You just didn’t think. It’s a fantastic benefit that that laws around smoking came into place.
“In the next 15 years I hope we will be looking back again at how far we’ve come. If we can be on track to meet smokefree 2030 targets that would be brilliant.”
Tracy Davies is an ex-smoker and Tobacco Dependency Treatment Advisor in South London, specialising in supporting people experiencing mental illness. She said: “Smoke-free spaces are incredibly important. If you’re in an environment where people are smoking, it’s difficult to make that decision and stick with it. With a smoke-free environment we’re not only helping our smokers to quit, but we’re also protecting our staff and ensuring our more vulnerable patients are not influenced to start smoking.
“I think that we have come a long way but there is still some way to go, for example in care homes. Staff working in those environments will still be exposed because residential settings are exempt from smoke-free legislation. But ultimately tobacco is becoming less desirable, and I am hoping that smoking will be non-existent in 15 years’ time. How lovely to see that goal happening over time, it’s such an achievement and such a wonderful thing”.
Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) is encouraging increased intervention by government, following the independent Khan Review  published in June, to make smoke-free 2030 a reality.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH said: “Smokefree laws changed the debate irrevocably, putting the emphasis firmly on the right to fresh air instead of the right to smoke. Proof of that is the level of public support in London for more smokefree public spaces, with a majority supporting a ban in outdoor seating areas of all restaurants, pubs and cafes. The largest support is for smokefree outdoor children’s play areas (88%) and outdoor areas where children play sport (77%).”
“Three years since the Government announced its ambition and over a year since a new Tobacco Control Plan was promised, there’s no time to lose. Hundreds of children still start smoking every day and we’re nowhere near achieving the Government’s Smokefree 2030 ambition. Javed Khan’s independent review sets out a clear programme for action, supported by the public, now it’s time for Government to deliver.”
Smokers in London who want to stop smoking are urged to visit the Stop Smoking London website at www.stopsmokinglondon.com to find their local stop smoking service which provides free, personalised, one-to-one support to help you quit.