Social Policy and Welfare Law

Smoking is without a doubt a dangerous and potentially fatal habit. Research has proven that smoking is the greatest cause of death in developed countries. A number of factors influence a teenager’s decision to begin smoking and then they become addicted to it. The overall rate of smoking in children aged 11-15 years in UK has been 9% in the past four years. The sale of tobacco to children under 16 has been illegal since 1908. On July 3, 2006 the Minister of State of Public Health, Caroline Flint has proposed increase in legal age for smoking accompanied by tougher sanctions against vendors selling cigarettes to underage teens.

The success of these proposed actions depends on the manner of their implementation. This essay will also scrutinize the social policy of the UK government, analyzing likely barriers in its implementation. Social Policy and Welfare Law of UK Smoking is the greatest cause of death through out the world. It poses a big risk, especially among those who start smoking in their teenage years. If they keep smoking steadily, about half will eventually be killed by tobacco in which about one quarter will die in old age and one quarter in middle age.

Those killed by tobacco in middle age i. e. 35 to 69 years age, lose an average of 20 to 25 years on nonsmoker life expectancy. The earlier one starts smoking the less likely he or she is to give up. In 1993, the cigarette industry in UK spent ? 100 million on advertisement and other promotional activities while the government spent only ? 10 million on anti-smoking measures. The tax revenue from cigarette sales to under 16 year olds was ? 108 million per year. Smoking is the greatest cause of premature death in the UK, killing around 106,000 people a year.

Realizing the gravity of the situation, the Minister of State of Public Health, Caroline Flint, announced proposals to reduce teenage smoking on July 3, 2006. In this paper these proposals are discussed and their likely impact is evaluated. In the beginning hazards of teenage smoking is discussed followed by the situation in UK. Then an overview of the current legislative scenario is given, after which the new proposals for crackdown on teenage smoking are discussed. Before concluding few other social policies concerning young people will be scrutinized.

Hazards of Teenage Smoking The motivations for teenage smoking include peer pressure, advertisement, imitating parents, boredom, the need to experiment, and self-image. All these factors influence an adolescent’s decision to begin smoking and then they continue smoking because cigarettes are highly addictive. Other than the longer-term effects of smoking some specific problems are related to young smokers. Infertility in female smokers is two to three times higher than in non-smokers, brain haemorrhage is six times higher in young smokers than young non-smokers.

Asthma is greatly worsened by cigarette smoking and smoke is also a pollutant of home and social environments. Persistent health problems are reported by 25% of adolescent smokers, mostly asthma or allergic symptoms, as compared to 16% of non-smokers. Teenage Smoking in UK Many adolescents are aware of the effects of smoking on their health. In a study of 650 teenagers aged 14-17 years in the UK, 98% knew smoking was harmful yet one in five were or had been smokers. A recent study by Dr Allan Moran in Drogheda investigated the issues of peer or parent pressure on smoking and the reasons teenagers stop smoking.

Pupils from three male secondary schools in the North East were surveyed and found that if a sibling smoked, the adolescent was 3. 5 times more likely to smoke. If a best friend smoked they were 11. 5 times more likely to smoke. 79% of the boys reported enjoying smoking, 80% reported having tried to stop smoking and 70% wanted to stop. In spite of legislation banning the sale of cigarettes to under 16s, all the adolescent smokers stated they were able to buy cigarettes. Between 1988 and 1996, smoking prevalence among 11-15 year olds increased sharply from 8% to 13%.

In response, the Government set a target to reduce the number of young smokers. The target, set out in the 1998 White Paper on Tobacco was to reduce smoking prevalence among 11-15 year olds to 9% or less by 2010. Though this target has been achieved, the overall rate has remained unchanged at 9% the past four years. Most addicted adult smokers start smoking as teenagers, with 38% of smokers starting before they reach the age of 16. This means that access to cigarettes by under 16 year olds has not been difficult.

This is due to retailers selling cigarettes to those under the legal age and children acquiring them from friends or vending machines. Current Laws Regarding Underage Smoking The sale of tobacco to children under 16 has been illegal since 1908. The prevalent law prohibiting the sale of tobacco to children under 16 is part of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 which was amended by the Children and Young Persons Act 1991. The Children and Young Persons Act 1933 prohibits the sale of tobacco products or cigarette papers to persons under the age of 16.

It also enables the courts to give orders about automatic machines which have been used by children under the age of 16. It imposes a duty on constables and park-keepers to seize tobacco and cigarette from persons who are under age. Children and Young Persons (Protection from Tobacco) Act 1991 requires the display of warning statements in retail premises where tobacco is sold and on tobacco vending machines. The 1991 Act also increased penalties against retailers found to sell tobacco to underage children. [Department of Health (2006)] Proposals to Eradicate Teenage Smoking

On July 3, 2006 Health Minister, Caroline Flint has proposed raising the legal age at which children can buy cigarettes to 17 or 18 years to help retailers identify underage smokers. The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (7 July, 2006) reports that the government hopes that by raising the legal age, retailers will find it easier to spot those who are underage and refuse them service. The increased legal age is to be accompanied by tougher sanctions against vendors who continue selling cigarettes to underage teens. Two methods have been prescribed to control sale of cigarettes to underage teenagers by the retailers.

The government has proposed creating a licensing system in which a license that allows a retailer to sell tobacco products could be invalidated if they repeatedly sell to underage customers. Such a system is already implemented to control alcohol consumption by underage children. Under this approach, a formal licensing system would be created in which prospective tobacco retailers would be required to apply for a local authority license. Retailers found to be persistently breaking the law on under-age sales would be risking temporary or permanent suspension of their license to sell tobacco products.

A negative licensing system is also recommended in which a retailer could be prohibited by court order from selling tobacco products, if he or she is found to be violating the underage sale law. Tobacco retailers who are found to have sold tobacco repeatedly to children and young people under 16 can lose the right to sell tobacco products, under a court order. This is a negative licensing scheme in which retailers are free to sell tobacco products unless or until they are proven to have repeatedly broken the underage law. [Department of Health (2006)]

The major challenge faced by the government regarding these proposals is the implementation of the regulations and sanctions. Also there is a chance that such a step might discourage entrepreneurship in the country. There is also a certain amount of uncertainty about the response of smokers who will be prohibited from smoking after the law is put into practice. There is need to change the culture that asserts that ‘Smoking is cool’, through education systems and youth guidance campaigns. On the positive side a large part of the population which at present smokes un-prohibited will be discouraged to continue the habit.

The licensing system will not only complement this effect by discouraging vendors to sell cigarettes to underage children, it will also provide a way to generate revenue for the government in order to fulfill some of the administrative cost of implementing the system. Other Relevant Social Care Policies Government is also bent in reducing the use of Class A drugs and the frequent use of any illicit drug among all young people under 25 especially by the most vulnerable young people. Success for the drug strategy means preventing today’s young people from becoming tomorrow’s problematic drug users.

All young people identified as being vulnerable will receive appropriate education, advice, information and support on substance misuse both in and out of school settings (“Health and Social Care,” 2006). The Department of Health is also working with DrugScope, a national voluntary organisation, to identify opportunities to intervene with young people who are especially at risk of drug misuse. Besides that the government has also launched a programme named ‘Frank. ’ Frank is an innovative new campaign for young people and their parents.

It focuses on the most vulnerable young people and on helping parents to access information and advice to enable them to talk to their children. It will focus primarily on heroin, cocaine and ecstasy (Department of Health, 2006). In addition to that, the Department of Health (DH) in partnership with the Home Office (HO), the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) has developed a framework, which sets out a strategic direction for addressing Volatile Substance Abuse (VSA). The framework is supported by the Department of Trade and Industry as well. Conclusion

From the above analysis it is clear that there is a need to employ all means to discourage teenage smoking. For this purpose the proposals of the Department of Health is a welcomed action. Increasing the minimum age for the smokers may prove to be an important disincentive for young smokers. The licensing system will undoubtedly prevent sale of tobacco products to young underage teenagers. But before implementing this system intensive feasibility of its likely costs and benefits needs to be carried out. A plan for minimizing the costs should also be worked upon in order to ensure the practicality of the proposed system.