A decade of smoking cessation in Europe

The continent with the worst smoking habit is gradually giving it up. A range of anti-smoking policies and new cessation products has led to reduced rates of smoking in most countries, which will eventually impact on smoking-related deaths.



Delayed health benefits of quitting tobacco

Quitting smoking has both immediate and long-term health benefits. After just a few weeks, circulation and lung function improve, and in the years that follow, risk of cancers and cardiovascular disease begin to reduce to that of non-smokers.

1 year: Your risk of coronary heart disease is about half that of a smoker.

5 years: Your stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker 5 to 15 years after quitting.

10 years: Your risk of lung cancer falls to about half that of a smoker and your risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, cervix, and pancreas decreases.

15 years: Your risk of coronary heart disease is that of a nonsmoker.

Tobacco regulation in Europe

Since the first studies showed a link between smoking and cancer in the 1950s, there have been a number of regulations introduced to try to reduce tobacco consumption as well as several products licensed for smoking cessation.

1950: Two retrospective studies are published in JAMA and the British Medical Journal that show there is a statistically higher incidence of smoking among lung cancer patients compared with patients with other diseases.

1967: The first report concerning the adverse effects of second-hand smoke on children’s health is published in The Journal of Allergy.

1978: First nicotine replacement therapy, Nicorette gum, registered as a drug in Switzerland.

1989: A ban on television advertising of cigarettes is implemented throughout the EU and the EU adopts a resolution on banning smoking in public places and in all forms of public transport.

1992: Oral tobacco (such as snus) is banned in the EU with the exception of Sweden. The ban is brought in after a World Health Organization study concluded that oral use of tobacco is carcinogenic.

1998: JAMA publishes a study that links both active and passive smoking with progression of atherosclerosis.

2000: Smoking cessation drug buproprion (Zyban) is licensed in Europe.

2001: The Tobacco Products Directive becomes law in the EU, imposing upper limits on the tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide content of cigarettes, banning misleading descriptors such as “light” and “mild”, and increasing the size of health warnings on packaging.

2003: The World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is adopted by the World Health Assembly and will come into effect in 2005. It provides an internationally co-ordinated response to combating the tobacco epidemic, and sets out specific steps for governments on tax, advertising, smoke-free environments, health warnings and illicit trade.

2004: Ireland becomes the first country to introduce a ban on smoking in enclosed workplaces.

2005: Electronic cigarettes are introduced to the European market.

2006: The European Medicines Agency grants marketing approval for selective nicotine-receptor partial agonist varenicline (Champix).

2014: The revised EU Tobacco Products Directive comes into force, with new rules on the size of picture warnings, a ban on flavoured cigarettes, a maximum nicotine-concentration level for e-cigarettes, and EU-wide tracking of cigarettes to combat illegal trade.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, 7 February 2015, Vol 294, No 7848;294(7848):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2015.20067801

You may also be interested in