Guest Blog by Dr Mike Knapton, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, a member of NHE’s editorial board and a part-time GP in Cambridge.
It’s taken a long time, but with initiatives like No Smoking Day and significant progress on new measures to tackle smoking, we could finally be in sight of a smoke-free UK. Although there are still more than 100,000 deaths caused by smoking each year, smoking prevalence is at its lowest level since records began in the 1940s. In 1954, around 80% of adults smoked, but current levels are now at just 19%.
While this has been great progress, recent years have seen smoking rates stagnate and we must now crack the ‘final fifth’ of adults who are still smokers, many of whom are desperate to quit.
England bans smoking in cars with children
Just last month, a ban on smoking in cars carrying children in England was passed by MPs. The ban will come into effect on 1 October, and is a welcome measure. Most exposure to second-hand smoke happens in the home, and it is very harmful in enclosed places, such as cars – particularly to children.
Every week, thousands of children are exposed to second-hand smoke in cars, putting them at greater risk of respiratory infections, asthma, and sudden infant death. I would urge families to consider this risk when smoking in cars or the home, with children present.
Introducing standardised packaging
The MPs at Westminster recently heard they will be given the option of voting on the introduction of standardised packaging, before the General Election in May. Current branded packaging is a ubiquitous form of tobacco advertising, used by tobacco companies to attract people to smoking, particular new young smokers.
Australia introduced plain packaging in December 2012 and smoking rates have since plummeted. Before the measure was introduced, daily smoking prevalence stood at 15.1%. Now just 13% of people aged over 14 are daily smokers. This is why I would like to see standardised packaging urgently introduced here in the UK.
We now need governments across the UK to urgently commit to standardised packaging and there needs to be greater efforts to support communities where smoking continues to be a problem. Smoking is an addictive, toxic and deadly habit and it is not our aim to take away freedom of choice, but to help protect people and save lives.
Support for quitting smoking
This No Smoking Day, we’re urging smokers to visit their GP, pharmacist or local NHS stop smoking service to receive information, resources and advice to help them quit smoking.
For more information on the No Smoking Day campaign visit www.nosmokingday.org.uk.