Death of the Marlboro Man – Why men stubbed out smoking
Smoking is slowly but surely becoming a thing of the past as a new study reveals the number of male smokers in the UK is at an all time low...
It’s been 15 years since the smoking ban hit the UK (feel old yet?) and although it caused outraged at the time, there’s no denying the health benefits the once controversial law has led to over the past decade.
Gone are the days where pubs were filled with smoke and you could light up on a plane without anyone batting an eyelid. In fact, they feel like an entirely different lifetime ago now that designated smoking areas and vaping are a thing. But how exactly did the smoking ban manage to transform a nation of Marlboro men into non-smokers?
According to research by e-cigarette retailer, Vapourcore.com, who investigated recent findings by Public Health England, only 17.7% of men in the UK are current smokers – a massive decline when you reflect on the years after World War Two where 80% of men smoked in the UK, or more recently compared to 1974 where the country was made up of 50% male smokers. Obviously, this dramatic drop in male smokers has a lot to do with the smoking ban which was introduced by the government on 1 July 2007. It has since been described as “the most important piece of public health legislation for a generation,” according to The Independent, as cigarettes account for approximately 100,000 deaths a year in the UK from cancer and heart disease.
In March of this year, MailOnline reported that men will live as long as women by the year 2032 – a statement backed up by the findings of Professor Les Mayhew, a statistics expert at Cass Business School. His research explains that it will be “the first time that men will achieve parity with women since records began in 1841,” and experts believe the biggest reason for this is the decline in male smokers. Men have historically been bigger smokers than women, and they still are as only 14.4% of women currently smoke in the UK compared to the aforementioned percentage of men – a point which could be used to argue their shorter life expectancy. However, experts at Vapourcore.com have now predicted that smoking rates for both sexes will meet at a level of 16% in the future, contributing to the narrowing of life expectancy between the two sexes. And with things going the way they are, it’s not hard to believe.
As you may have noticed around you, people have been abandoning their smoking habits and replacing them with alternatives such nicotine patches and e-cigarettes in recent years. The rise in vaping in particular has played a huge factor in the decline of smoking as it has quickly taken the place of cigarettes not only in the UK but around the world. Earlier this year, the BBC reported that the number of vapers has increased from about seven million in 2011 to a whopping 35 million in 2016. Similarly, market research group Euromonitor estimates that the number of adults who vape will reach almost 55 million worldwide by 2021.
The glamorisation of smoking in movies and TV shows has also seen a significant drop since the smoking ban. For decades, men were sold the idea that “tough” guys smoke thanks to Hollywood’s representation of said “tough” guys. From James Dean in Rebel With A Cause to Brad Pitt in Fight Club, it was the on-screen norm for film icons to light up. However, things changed in the years between 2005 and 2010 as we saw a huge decline in the use of tobacco in movies according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although it turns out that it didn’t last very long with filmmakers resurrecting the trend from 2010 onwards. A study by the organisation recorded that 67% of top-grossing, R-rated US movies in 2016 had tobacco use in it, while 26% of “youth-rated” movies featured smoking too. While this seems like a step back, the absence of cigarettes in movies following the smoking ban definitely played a part slashing the number of smokers. And the fact that the return of the trend in the last couple of years hasn’t had as much of an impact as it once did only proves that men are sick of being sold the same dream they once bought into – that smoking equals machoness and cool.
Then there’s the whole wellness thing, of course. The current wave of health and well being mania has been ongoing for the last few years and quite frankly smoking just doesn’t fit into it. Various studies have proven that millennial men and women are more health-conscious than previous generations which means they’re careful about what they consume and are more likely to take initiative (such as ditching the tobacco) on behalf of their well-being. So as we swap alcohol-fuelled socialising for green juices and wellness festivals, there simply is no place for smoking. And luckily, it doesn’t look like that’ll change anytime soon.
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