Do you remember what you were doing on July 1, 2007? I don't blame you if you don't - it was half a decade ago! Let's see if I can jog your memory.
The Great British Public was enduring one of the wettest summers on record, rain had stopped play for days at Wimbledon, and Rihanna was enjoying another week at number one with her aptly titled single, Umbrella.
If you remember heading indoors to get away from the downpours then you may also remember something else that happened on July 1, five years ago. It became illegal to smoke in enclosed public spaces in England. Pubs, bars, clubs, offices, factories, trains, buses; they all went smoke free. Wales and Northern Ireland had gone smoke free earlier in 2007, and Scotland the year before.
So at the five year anniversary, what have we learned about the smokefree legislation?
- General support for the new law increased dramatically after the ban
- The change has proved popular among smokers. In a 2010 survey, half of all smokers supported the law
- The legislation resulted in a reduction in heart attacks- including a 2.4% drop in the first year
It's clear that tobacco control legislation can make a difference. And it's not just me saying that; a YouGov survey after the ban found substantial support among smokers themselves for further restrictions. Like us, 77% supported a ban on smoking in cars carrying children. The danger of passive smoking has been known for a while so why subject our children to it?
The British Heart Foundation is also calling for tobacco and cigarettes to be sold in packs with larger health warnings, devoid of logos and attractive colours. These plain packs would help stop tobacco companies attracting new smokers and we're telling the Government just that with the help of our growing petition.
After all, tobacco control legislation is about protecting our children by making sure they don't breath in lethal second-hand smoke or get hooked on this dangerous habit in the first place.
Stopping smoking in enclosed public spaces, banning cigarette vending machines, hiding tobacco displays in shops and supermarkets; legislation has achieved good things over the last five years. But let's not sing in the rain just yet, we should be striving for an even brighter future.
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