As we welcome in 2014, many will resolve to stub out smoking for good. How can councils help people kick the habit?
One of the most popular new year’s resolutions is to give up smoking. Smoking remains the number one preventable cause of preventable death in the UK, claiming 81,400 lives each year and costing the NHS approximately £2.7bn annually.
Every year in the UK more than 200,000 people become addicted to tobacco and 90% of these do so before they are 19-years-old.
Increasingly, public health professionals view smoking as a childhood addiction brought on by the successful initiation of tobacco use in children from the poorest areas. Finding out who or what is behind this child initiation and stopping it is the challenge for local authorities.
Helping people who smoke to stop is an important objective, but if a thousand people give up smoking with stop smoking support services each year, 1,100 are initiated into smoking and that is a strategic failure. For this reason, many local authorities are looking to move the balance of their investment from smoking cessation support into preventing children starting in the first place.
Even though cessation services are very cost effective, the majority of ex-smokers will have managed to quit without the direct support or the intervention of cessation services. However, local authorities are ideally placed to mobilise their diverse resources to achieve the dual aims of protecting children from the harms of tobacco and helping people who do smoke to quit, and they can do so in a number of ways:
1) High quality stop smoking services
Evidence shows that people who use structured support through these services are up to four times more likely to be successful than those that go it alone. Blackburn with Darwen borough council is using sports and leisure centres, children and family settings, community pharmacies and healthcare settings to help people give up.
2) Campaigns and marketing strategies
These need to promote the benefits of stopping smoking and raise awareness of Stop Smoking Services, as well as encourage smokers to quit. This includes promoting national campaigns such as “Stoptober” and the “New Year Quit” campaign, as well as developing local campaigns tailored to their communities. For example, in Blackburn the council has run campaigns and community engagement work to raise awareness of the harms associated with smoking shisha (tobacco water pipe).
3) Smoke-free homes and cars
This continues to ensure that, wherever possible, tobacco and smoking become de-normalised in society and that many parts of the community, particularly settings where children are present, are smoke-free.
4) Enforcing smoke- free legislation
Communities also need to be free from illicit tobacco.
5) Strong leadership
Councils across the country (including Blackburn with Darwen) are signing up to the Local Government Declaration on Tobacco Control. This declaration states the high priority given to tackling tobacco by these authorities and outlines steps to be taken to reduce the harmful effects of tobacco, including protecting public policy from the influence of the tobacco industry. Local authorities are well-placed to lobby national government to enact tobacco control legislation.
Local authorities have the best opportunity to reduce the prevalence of tobacco smoking in their boroughs. Protecting children from the harmful effects of tobacco and helping smokers to stop is probably the best gift any local authority can give to its residents for 2014.