Protecting young people from harmful exposure to tobacco
Research by ISM in the 1990s was among the first in the UK to show how tobacco advertising exerted a powerful influence on young people and to shed light on how tobacco companies deliberately used marketing to encourage children to smoke. ISM’s long-running tobacco control research programme, funded by Cancer Research UK since 1999, has demonstrated that restrictions on tobacco advertising have helped to reduce young people’s susceptibility to smoke in the future.
The findings have also shown that further controls, such as stronger regulation on packaging, are still needed to protect children. Again, ISM has led the way here, with its pioneering research into consumer perceptions and usage of cigarettes in plain packaging, and in 2012 the Institute was funded by the Department of Health to conduct the first ever systematic review of the evidence on plain packaging’s public health benefits, which underpinned subsequent UK-wide consultations on the issue. In 2013 the Scottish government announced a commitment to plain packaging.
Before the ban on tobacco advertising was introduced, research on the impact of advertising on young people conducted by the ISM helped to change public attitudes. Expert evidence presented by Professor Hastings and his colleagues has stood up to examination by the Health Select Committee, at the European Commission and in the media, and has been tremendously helpful in making our case. In Professor Hastings particularly we have someone who can explain our position in the media, hold his own in debate with the big tobacco companies, and be confident talking to politicians at the highest level. That’s something we really value.
Dr Jean King, Cancer Research UK Director of Tobacco Control