National No Smoking Day – your health is in your hands

smokingNational No Smoking Day took place on 9 March this year. In an interview with Hazel CheesemanJeylan Ramis asks how big an issue smoking is in the UK today.

It can take just six weeks – that’s all – for quitting smoking to boost your mood as well as your mental health, according to a new study. 

This year, National No Smoking day took place on 9 March and aimed to bring awareness to the dangers of this addiction.

Smoking is the world’s leading cause of preventable illness and death.

The World Health Organisation states that one in every two people who smoke will die of a smoking-related disease unless they quit.

Your health is in your hands. 

In a conversation with the Action on Smoking and Health organisation (ASH), the issue of smoking in the UK is explored.

Jeylan Ramis: How big an issue is smoking in the UK?

Hazel Cheeseman: Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the UK. It is responsible for half the difference in life expectancy between rich and poor. 

While rates of smoking have fallen substantially over the last 20 years, they remain high in disadvantaged groups. 

For example, people living in social housing have around twice the rate of smoking of people living in other types of housing.

Those living with mental health conditions have much higher rates of smoking than those without mental health conditions.

The rippling impact of tobacco addiction is felt across many parts of smokers lives.

While poor health might be the most visible impact, smokers are more likely to live in poverty, more likely to be unemployed and have lower wages than non-smokers. 

There are also profound economic costs from smoking with the annual cost to society of around £17bn just in England. 

Jeylan Ramis: Following the government’s no smoking pledge 2030 – how close are we to achieving this?

Hazel Cheeseman: The government pledged in 2019 to secure a smoke-free country in England by 2030.

In Scotland their goal is by 2035 and the Welsh government is currently consulting on a 2030 ambition. 

What is meant by this is smoking rates at or below 5%. On current rates of decline the government will not meet this goal.  Particularly, for poorest communities who may be decades behind. 

Jeylan Ramis: What are the hurdles to achieving this?

Hazel Cheeseman: Smoking rates have fallen in this country due to a comprehensive approach to reducing smoking. 

Throughout the last two decades successive governments have taken a multi-pronged approach to smoking. 

This has combined tighter regulations with things like investment in stop smoking support and mass media campaigns and raising the price of tobacco through tax rises and reducing the size of the illicit market. 

No one measure would have brought about change. Although, together they have brought our rates of smoking down to some of the lowest in Europe. 

Right now, the barrier to change is the failure to invest in a new comprehensive strategy.

While this has been promised for over a year now, it is yet to materialise. 

The government has recently commissioned an independent review of tobacco policy and it is to be hoped that this will lead to the bold strategy and new investment needed to deliver another decade of change. 

Jeylan Ramis: Who has the responsibility of helping to bring smoking rates down?

Hazel Chesseman: Reducing smoking is a highly complex challenge. 

It is a widespread addiction, generally established in childhood and concentrated in our least advantaged communities. 

While national government must take responsibility for the overarching strategy, to generate the necessary funding and pass enforcing regulation, many other parts of the system need to play their part too. 

The NHS is investing in new bedside support for smokers in acute hospitals. Also, further support for pregnant smokers and those in secondary mental health care. 

Local authorities hold the public health budget and fund community stop smoking services as well as enforcing laws locally. 

All healthcare professionals have a vital role in motivating smokers to quit.

We know that raising smoking and making a referral to support can make a massive difference to whether a smoker makes a quit attempt.

Dentists, GPs, pharmacists and others all have a really important role to play in this. 

Jeylan Ramis: Why are the younger generation still taking up smoking?

Hazel Cheeseman: Uptake among young people is slowing down.

However, there are some concerns that the pandemic has impacted on this trend. 

We have limited data among those under 18 due to surveys being suspended. However, a big national study found a rise in smoking among 18 to 24 year olds during the pandemic. 

There could be many reasons for this, but clearly the pandemic has had a very volatile impact on young people’s lives and their mental wellbeing. All of this might be contributing to a spike in uptake. 

Very few people start smoking over the age of 24. 

ASH is advocating for a national consultation on raising the age of sale from 18 to 21. 

When the age of sale was raised from 16 to 18 this reduced uptake. We need to be exploring the potential of bold initiatives such as this if we’re to make sure there is no lasting pandemic legacy of higher rates of smoking among our young adults.  

Jeylan Ramis: What can dental practices do for their patients who are struggling to quit?

Hazel Cheeseman: Dentists should advise every smoker they see to use evidence-based support to quit.

The latest research tells us that more important than telling people why they should quit, health professionals should advise them on how to quit. 

It is this advice that has most impact on smokers. 

The best chances a smoker has of successfully quitting is through support from a trained stop smoking adviser, combined with medication like nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or an e-cigarette. 

If smokers don’t want to access this support or it’s not readily available in your area, then using an e-cigarette has been shown to be more effective than just using over-the-counter NRT. 

There are also some useful apps on the market that some smokers may wish to use. 

Smokers and healthcare professionals can get more advice about quitting from the Better Health website: www.nhs.uk/better-health/quit-smoking.

This No Smoking Day, we’re calling on all healthcare professionals to step up their advice to smokers and communicate hope.

We’re asking them to tell smokers not to give up on giving up.  


To find out more visit: www.todayistheday.co.uk or email [email protected].  

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