10 years smokefree

Saturday, 1 July 2017, by Rosie

If you were asked to name the most exciting and beneficial development of the past 10 years, you might join the millions who would say ‘the iPhone’, on its tenth anniversary: it’s changed the way we communicate, it’s the single most profitable product ever made, etc. 

But there’s another tenth anniversary - of a piece of legislation which owes a lot to some people in the North of England – which means more than even the iPhone’s birthday…

Smokefree legislation changed our environment in ways we’ve probably forgotten. The England of June 30, 2007 was such a different place. It may all be a distant memory now, but these are some of the things we might have taken for granted then*…

Smoking on planes

 Clothes smelling like a bonfire, after a night in the pub

The sinking feeling when someone on the next table lit up after every course

Overflowing ashtrays in the office

Brown-stained ceilings in cafes.

And even more distantly… 

Cigarettes ‘are kind to your throat’

‘Smoking helps you slim’

More than half the British population smoked.

It’s all part of a journey which saw smoking as a common part of British life: mum and dad smoking in the front all the way to Anglesey, the children in the back ‘car sick’; films and TV packed with smoking images; ciggies sent to the forces during the war; cigarette cases; elaborate lighters in the boardroom; burn marks on the carpet…

Things started to change in the ‘60s, when the cancer link was made, but still people smoked in their many millions. Fifteen or so years ago, the US showed what could be done by tackling smoking as an issue that affects other people’s health – not just your own.

And that’s when Liverpool also showed what could be done, when the city took the lead in pressing for smokefree workplace legislation. At first (2003) ‘everybody’ said it wouldn’t happen/you might get partial legislation/Big Tobacco is too powerful, but within a couple of years Liverpool had presented the case, convinced MPs and most other people, and played a huge role in what became one of the most significant pieces of public health legislation for generations 

When it came, the legislation wasn’t partial – but a comprehensive ban on smoking in public places, from this day 10 years ago.

In that decade, lives have been saved, heart attack rates have dropped and children have grown up in an environment that makes the world pre-July 1 2007 seem like a different place altogether.

For that, everyone involved in the SmokeFree Liverpool campaign Class of 2007 should be quietly pleased with the role they played. And the city’s role should be remembered – tweeted on your iPhone…


*Smoking in public places may be becoming a memory in the UK, but statistics show that around 1 in 4 people in Liverpool still smoke and that the overall cost of smoking in the city is around £150m a year. In other countries, smoking prevalence is rising. But there are no reports of any airlines still allowing smoking on board…

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