FEATURE: Ashes to Ashes, 10 years since the ban

This year marks the 10-year anniversary of the smoking ban in England. Way back in 2007 smoking was banned in enclosed areas such as pubs, restaurants and work places. With over 140 years of cigarette making history, Nottingham was once the leader of Britain’s tobacco industry. But how has the ban changed the home of John Player’s? 10 years on, Ashes to Ashes finds out.

A leading name in the British tobacco industry for more than 140 years John Player & Sons, known locally as Player’s, opened up the first of its factories in Radford in 1877.

By 1937, Player’s sold nearly 3.5 million cigarettes making up two thirds of all cigarettes sold in Britain – and at its peak the the firm employed 7,000 staff and made 52 billion cigarettes each year.

But in May of last year the last ever English-produced cigarettes rolled off the Player’s production line as the factory closed its doors.

The factories closure was blamed on changing attitudes towards smoking, some suggest brought on by the 2007 smoking ban.


The John Player & Sons factory in Nottingham.

Former John Player’s factory worker Linda Ledbetter says that for her generation growing up in Nottingham working at Player’s was always the next step after leaving school.

“With Players it was like how the men would go down the pit and the sons would follow – at Player’s you would always follow on,” she said.

“My Grandma worked there, my aunt worked there, it just seemed that the next stage when you left school was you would work at Player’s.

“Your first thought was; it’s the best place to work, there’s different factories all round Nottingham and it’s like keeping it in the family, you just wanted to all go.

“It went right back to my Gran – she worked there in the twenties, my aunt started in the fifties and I started middle of the sixties, so we’ve always had someone working there right up until the end, until it closed.”

With a smoking culture long-embedded in the history of Nottingham the adult smoking rate in the city stands 24%, six points above the national average.

And with 22% of households with children allowing smoking within the home, the City Council says it is working to protect the cities young children from its harmful effects.

Public Health Consultant at Nottingham City Council Rachel Sokal says the Council wants to create smoke free environments for children.

“We are doing a particular amount of work around protecting young children from smoking, and from the harms of smoking,” she said

“That includes supporting pregnant women who might be smokers to try and quit smoking at a very difficult time and obviously those with small children as well.

“We are also working in schools, and generally around where children play to support people not to smoke and have those as smoke free environments.”


22% of households with children allow smoke within the home.

Rachel added: “It’s also about the culture and the normalisation of people smoking, part of protecting children from smoking isn’t just the direct prevention of them inhaling smoke.

“It’s also protecting them from seeing that smoking and thinking that that’s an okay behaviour to have, and that that doesn’t have harms to your health.

“It’s not about restricting peoples choice and there ability to smoke, but it is about protecting harm from others.”

But for some in the city these new rules do very much feel restrictions; ‘we live in a nanny state’ says Pro-choice smoker and Friend of Forest Penny Bunn.

“We live in this nanny state where none of us are allowed to make up our own minds about what we want anymore,” she said.

“Once upon a time when I started smoking we actually were allowed to make a choice.

“You couldn’t go anywhere where people weren’t smoking – parents smoked at home, pregnant mothers smoked, proud new fathers smoked, everyone smoked in hospital even the doctor smoked.

“Everybody smoked everywhere, it was not possible for a child of my generation to escape this second hand smoke and my argument is if it was that dangerous none of us would be here.”

Forest’s key priorities: 

Forest represents adults who choose to consume tobacco and non-smoking adults who are tolerant of other people’s enjoyment of tobacco.

  • Counteract the “denormalisation” of tobacco.
  • Prevent further restrictions on the purchase and consumption of tobacco.
  • Lobby politicians to amend public smoking bans to accommodate those who choose consume a legal product.
  • Establish closer links with other tobacco-friendly groups at home and abroad.
  • Build support among consumers of tobacco and other similarly threatened groups.
  • Highlight the increasingly intrusive nature of Big Government in the lives of private individuals.

For others the choice is not whether to smoke or not, but it is a choice about your health.

Amanda Sandford from Action on Smoke and Health (ASH) said: “If we are talking about choice then it is a question of do you make a healthy choice or an unhealthy choice.”

A 2014 report by ASH says there is no risk free level of second hand smoke.

Amanda added: “Since the ban one of the things we have already seen is a drop in the admissions to hospital for heart disease amongst people who would otherwise have been exposed to tobacco smoke.

“Nowadays it would be unthinkable for anyone to just light up in an indoor public place, so we’ve achieved a great deal in that respect.

“I think the smoking ban in public places will go down in history as one of the most important public health interventions.”

“Your tissues are being exposed to these harmful chemicals and more than 69 of them cause cancer.”

A 2015 assessment by Nottingham City Council  discovered the city has significantly higher rates of lung cancer, COPD and heart disease compared to England due to smoking.

Secondhand smoke also continues to be a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in Nottingham children.

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Posters warning of the effects of second hand smoke at the QMC.

With secondhand smoke still an issue in the city one Nottingham doctor says that smoking environments are almost a punishment for non-smokers.

Doctor Jasprit Bhamrah said:“From personal experiences I have had patients that don’t know why they are struggling to breathe – they have always eaten healthily, done exercise and various things.

“But then you take more of a history and they have grown up in house-holds where their parents use to smoke and they have now developed COPD – and I think this is unfair because it wasn’t their choice.

“It is also a cause of many cancers in the body, starting from the mouth all the way down into the lungs – it is the sole cause of over 90% of lung cancers.

“It also affects your heart, it can cause heart attacks, strokes and other blood vessel related conditions.

“When anyone smokes you’re inhaling toxic smoke effectively or toxic air, within that there are many harmful chemicals and you’re breathing them in through your nose and mouth all the way down into your lungs.

“Your tissues are being exposed to these harmful chemicals and more than 69 of them cause cancer .”

Ex-smoker William O’Brien was previously part of the 30% of all male residents within Nottingham who smoke.

A lung cancer survivor, William had two thirds of his right lung removed because of the disease.

“Smoking addiction is as bad as heroin” he said.

William began smoking when he was 18 and would continue the habit for more than 50 years before cancer forced him to quit.

“I can’t go on a plane,  I’d die on a plane.”

He added: “Two thirds of my right lung had to be removed because of cancer which was caused by smoking.

“When I came out of hospital believe it or not the first thing I wanted wasn’t a meal or a cup of tea, it was a cigarette, and I did.”

For the first time in his life William relies on an inhaler when his lungs cannot cope.

“Because my remaining lung is week and damaged through smoking I’ll always be at risk from infections, and some of them are air born which you can’t avoid,” he added.

“If I’m in the Victoria Centre I can last about 20 minutes in there and that’s it.

“This is another thing people have to face when they lose a lung, you can’t go different places.

“I can’t go on a plane,  I’d die on a plane.”


William relies on an inhaler to breathe.

The 71-year-old says it was this half a decade of smoking that caused his cancer.

“You could go through what I’ve gone through, you could lose your right lung, you could lose both lungs.

“You could die, it could spread all round your body.

“I would say to anyone who is smoking just give it up for God’s sake.

“You could end up like me.”




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