Smoking has well-known health risks, and it is important that people fully appreciate these risks. Informed adults should, however, have the freedom to choose to smoke if they wish. Minors, on the other hand, are still developing the skills needed to make an informed decision and must therefore not smoke nor use any tobacco products.
ESTA fully supports programmes aimed at preventing minors from smoking, and all of our members subscribe to putting an end to youth smoking.
Those who choose not to smoke should not be involuntarily exposed to tobacco smoke in enclosed, indoor public spaces. Environmental tobacco smoke is perceived as a nuisance and an irritant. Respect and consideration for non-smokers is vital, and people must always be aware of how their lifestyle choices impact those around them. Equally, smokers should not be ostracised for electing to smoke. The most appropriate policy response is to enforce measures that provide smoke-free environments for non-smokers whilst accommodating smokers through designated, ventilated smoking areas. Pragmatism rather than dogmatism should be the guiding principle that sees adult choices respected.
The regulation of smoking should, like all public policy, be reasonable, proportionate and evidence based.
Tobacco is one of the most regulated consumer products in Europe, with regulation addressing all stages from production to marketing, sales and use. Tobacco control measures range from age limits on purchasing and prohibiting advertising to mandatory health warnings and restricting product innovation. Tobacco is also the subject of publicly funded information campaigns on the health risks of smoking and ways to quit. Further development of regulation in this area must be proportionate and rely on evidence.
Smoking is a health issue, not a ‘moral’ one. Governments have a responsibility to remind citizens of the risks of smoking and to protect third parties, but smokers should not be punished by governments for the personal choices they make.
Provided that those who choose not to smoke are not unduly exposed to tobacco smoke, an adult’s informed choice to smoke is not a matter for public health intervention in a free and open society. It is essential that the lifestyle choices of those who choose to smoke are also respected. A balance can be achieved by ensuring smoke-free environments for non-smokers whilst also accommodating smokers with designated, ventilated smoking areas.
To impose restrictions on a person’s lifestyle choice to smoke because public officials disapprove on moral grounds is reminiscent of the 15th century, when smoking was described as ‘allying oneself with devilry and pagan savagery’, punishable by imprisonment or death. Smoking is not a ‘moral issue’ and European policymakers should avoid paternalistic legislation.
The regulation of tobacco products serves to remind adults of the risks associated with smoking, and to prevent children and young people from smoking. Adults, however, should have the freedom to choose to smoke whilst being aware of the associated risks.
In the EU, the tobacco control measures currently in force are all encompassing and include restrictions on advertising, marketing, sponsorship, packaging, age limits to purchase and product innovation. Further rules govern product taxation, mandatory warnings and the provision of smoke-free environments.
In addition to legislative measures, tobacco is also the target of publicly funded campaigns on health risks and quitting methods, as well as publicly financed anti-smoking advocacy organisations.
While some regulations are necessary to continually remind consumers of the risks associated with smoking, many measures clash with personal liberty and choice, and are led by dogma and ideology rather than science. It is crucial that the regulation of tobacco, as with other products, be guided by scientific evidence and facts.
Tobacco regulation, like all public policies, should be based on sound science. Sound science relies on facts and evidence — not on subjective, unsubstantiated opinions. For tobacco regulation to be credible, it must draw on science conducted through independent, transparent research. This is vital to ensuring that tobacco control measures are reasonable and proportionate.
There is a wealth of evidence on the health risks of tobacco and the impact of tobacco control measures. It is this evidence, not the opinions of those participating in the debate, that should guide policymakers in further regulating tobacco products.