Putting the fag out: the future of smoking

(Photo from: StopSmokingNews)

Ask someone standing outside Terrace with a pint in one hand and a cigarette in the other about their smoking habit. The conversation will probably go along these lines: “Are you a smoker?” “No”, “You are smoking right now though ” , “But I’m not a smoker, I’m a social smoker”.

This kind of conversation can probably be had with a lot of your friends that smoke as well. It epitomises an attitude towards smoking that has permeated many, especially university students. While 40 years ago, it was acceptable to smoke constantly regardless of occasion, nowadays smoking is often only socially acceptable at times when alcohol is involved. Interestingly, this isn’t just a correlation, but has a causal explanation. Scientists at the University of Missouri found that (in mice it should be added) nicotine helps ward off the depressant and reduce drowsiness caused by alcoholic consumption. Additionally, nicotine increase the ‘alcohol high’ and our desire to drink.

Looking at the statistics, the heaviest drinking demographic is the same as the highest smoking demographic. Its 16 to 24 year olds. Curiously, the demographic that drinks the most regularly is the complete opposite of that that smoke the most; high-income individuals drink more regularly, while low-income individuals tend to smoke more.

The UK has decided to crack down on the ‘social’ smokers, especially trying to stop young smokers. Most recently, standardised packets have been introduced with shock images and no logo. Cigarette packets must now contain at least 20 cigarettes and self-roll tobacco pouches have to at least contain 30g. Controversially, the amount being spent on mass-media campaigns has been gutted; reduced from £25m in 2009/10 to just £4m in 2016/17.

Russia has also been in the ‘smoking’ news recently, by announcing a plan to ban cigarette sales for anyone born in 2015 and after. Although the plan has since been put on hold, it reveals the changing attitude towards smoking.

Amidst all this anti-smoking sentiment, there has been a notable merger in the tobacco market. Following British American Tobaccos (BAT) withdrawal from the US market around 2000, it has not bought up the remainder of Reynolds, where it owned 48% already. This will make it the second largest Tobacco company in the world, overtaking Philip Morris International and slotting in behind the state owned Chinese Imperial Tobacco Group, which has a monopoly on the largest tobacco market in the world: China.

The United States is also still a very lucrative tobacco market, despite declining smoking rates alike to most other developed countries. The US is so lucrative due to its high packet pricing, which is possible due to the generally high wealth of the consumers. According to the BAT chief executive Nincandro Durante, two packets of cigarettes in the US bring in the same net revenue as six packs from other developed markets or even 13 packs in comparison to emerging markets.

More generally, tobacco companies are looking at alternatives to burning tobacco, now popularizing ‘heat-not-burn’ products. Philip Morris International for example, has poured more than $3bn into R&D in this area. The competition with vaping and e-cigarettes is heating up (no pun intended). Conversely, the tobacco companies must prove to regulators that these products will not encourage new smokers by being seen as healthier alternatives.

All this being said, please don’t start smoking children at least not regularly. And if you want to quit and need some help then here is a link to the NHS website : http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/smoking/Pages/stopsmokingnewhome.aspx

By Tim Knickmann

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