What does the profession think of the smoking ban?

What does the profession think of the smoking ban?

Dental professionals respond to the news that MPs have voted in favour of the tobacco and vapes bill which will impose a smoking ban.

On 16 April, the House of Commons voted in favour of prime minister Rishi Sunak’s proposed smoking ban. The tobacco and vapes bill suggests raising the legal smoking age each year, effectively banning smoking for those born in 2009 or later.

It also includes measures to prevent vapes from being marketed to children. The bill must pass several more stages before becoming law, including approval from the House of Lords. However, the House of Commons vote brings it one step closer to implementation.

We heard from several dental professionals about their opinions of the ban and what it means for dentistry.

Ellena Jackson, dental hygienist and dental therapist

As a dental therapist practicing in the UK, I am deeply invested in the health and wellbeing of my patients and the general public. The detrimental effects of smoking on oral and general health are starkly evident in my general practice, and the burden of smoking-related diseases on our national health service is more than substantial. 

I believe the government’s plan is very ambitious and while I commend them for this bold initiative, I am somewhat sceptical. When I was at secondary school, many of my classmates were able to access cigarettes. While this ban may make it more difficult to do so, it does not deter young people from desiring to smoke, and criminalising tobacco may in turn make it more appealing.

Additionally, from my understanding, the ban is on the sale of tobacco and not the act of smoking. Currently it is illegal to sell tobacco to or purchase it on behalf of a person under the age of 18.

Under the new ban, if a person was over the legal age to smoke but under the ‘banned to buy’ age, will it be illegal for someone to give it to them or to buy it on their behalf? This seems like a large loophole which may not succeed in preventing young people from obtaining and smoking tobacco. 

‘We may simply be putting that money outside of tax brackets into criminal enterprises’

Currently there are many substances in the UK that are illegal. However banning them hasn’t prevented people from obtaining them. The yearly tax revenue from tobacco is exceptionally high but it is still far less than the cost of smoking on the economy and wider society.

By banning tobacco we may simply be putting that money outside of tax brackets into criminal enterprises without lessening the burden of smoking on the NHS. This could impact the nation’s finances and, subsequently, NHS funding. 

Additionally vaping is on the rise in schools and amongst children. More and more research is showing they are incredibly harmful and are causing similar effects to cigarettes in the lungs.

Disposable vapes are set to be banned within the next year but reusable vapes will still be available. I am disappointed that the government did not take the extra step to include all vapes and e-cigarettes in the ban. Possibly a ban on nicotine instead of tobacco would have been a better choice for the health of our younger generations. 

I would love for future generations to have the chance to experience life without smoke and although I commend the governments efforts in tackling this issue, I am not convinced the ban will succeed in the way they hope. The statistics available worldwide on marijuana usage show us the impact of legalising and criminalising substances.

I feel the best and quite frankly the only way forward is through better education and earlier exposure to the realities of being a smoker to deter people from choosing to smoke. 

Dr Mac, dentist and King’s College London tutor

I think there proposed smoking ban is a sensible step to protect the public in particular future generations. Smoking is one of the main reasons of oral cancer and gum disease, so as a dental professional, I support the decision wholeheartedly.

Helping to create smoking-free generations would lead to fewer life threatening diseases and reduces the burden on the health system.

Chloe Sharpe, dental therapist

The UK smoking ban proposed by Rishi Sunak could not have come soon enough. Whether it will be effective, only time will tell but it is time we take action against it. Smoking is a leading cause of cancer and is absolutely preventable. The negative effects smoking has on the body include an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and the tax payer’s money is spent to cover the medical costs of these individuals.

What I am most concerned about is how easily-accessible vaping has become to children under 18. No one seems to question the effects this is having on their health while they are still developing. Working at Eilertsen Dental Care in Plymouth, I see adults and teenagers who smoke or vape and have severe periodontal disease, dental decay and poor oral health.

I hope this ban comes into action so we can start advocating for our health and the health of our patients. It is time to stop spending money on things that can be prevented and invest it into the right things so we can help the people who really need it.

Gemma Cowen, dental therapist

Reflecting on the ban on smoking implemented in 2007, the mere thought of reverting back to those days is unsettling. The effectiveness of such measures cannot be overstated.

Recently, there has been encouraging news regarding the sale of tobacco products. As a mother, I wholeheartedly endorse this change, recognising its potential to shield not only my own children but countless others from the grip of this highly addictive substance.

My childhood memories are tainted with images of sitting amidst a haze of smoke, attempting to find solace in the depths of a couch. Such experiences underscore the urgency of this action.

In my professional capacity, I witness firsthand the devastating impact of tobacco on oral health. Patients grapple with addiction, struggling to break free for the betterment of their oral and systemic wellbeing.

This initiative promises to safeguard future generations from the chains of addiction and the onslaught of systemic diseases. Moreover, it stands as a bulwark against the strain tobacco-related illnesses place on our healthcare system.

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