The sale of tobacco products from vending machines will become illegal in England from 1 October 2011 making it harder for young people to obtain cigarettes. It is estimated that around one in six (17 per cent) of 11 to 15 year olds in the UK use vending machines as their usual source of cigarettes2.
The ban is also set to be enforced in Northern Ireland on 1 February 2012. Plans are underway to introduce similar legislation in Wales and Scotland. The legislation in England is being implemented despite extensive lobbying and legal challenges by the tobacco industry over the summer.
A recent survey, commissioned by the British Dental Health Foundation, in the run up to Mouth Cancer Action Month in November, identified that around one in seven (13 per cent) 12-16 year olds currently smoke1.
Smoking is the major cause of mouth cancer in the UK. Drinking alcohol to excess, poor diet and some sexually transmitted infections (Human Papilloma Virus or HPV) are also known risk factors for mouth cancer which is likely to affect 60,000 people in the UK over the next decade.
Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, said: “The ban on the sale of tobacco from vending machines is great news. Its importance is reflected by the vigorous attempts made by the tobacco lobby to challenge the legislation in the courts.
“We hope the ban will make it harder for children to experiment with smoking and also cut off a readily available supply of cigarettes for nearly 50,000 under age smokers. This ban will also play an important role in helping many young people to avoid a life long addiction and poor health in later life, including mouth cancer. At current rates we forecast that the incidence of mouth cancer is likely to double within a single generation.
“It is really important that everyone knows the warning signs for mouth cancer. They include ulcers which do not heal within three weeks, red and white patches in the mouth and unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth. Our message to everyone is ‘If in doubt, get checked out.'”
1. British Dental Health Foundation Research findings
The Foundation surveyed 802 respondents in September 2011, including 183 people aged 12-16 and 206 parents of children aged 12-16. The findings for 12-16 year olds included:
•13% of 12-16 year olds have admitted to smoking
•1 in 20 young people will continue to smoke from the legal age.
•97% of young people say they are aware of the harmful effects of smoking
•Only 50% of young people will refrain from smoking despite knowing the risks
2. Smoking, drinking and drug use among young people in England in 2006. The Information Centre for Health & Social Care, 2007.
3. For more information and background to the new legislation here.