Let’s Be Smoke Free
Smoking is one of the most visible health risks facing the world at large. While we’re all aware that this highly addictive habit poses a fatal threat, there’s still so much to be done. With campaigns like our national No Smoking Day having taken place this month, and WHO’s World No Tobacco Day in May, let’s take a look at what we’re doing and what more can be done.
The Story So Far
According to the ONS, there were 7.4 million UK adult smokers in 2017. The good news is that this represents a 0.7% reduction in numbers since only the previous year. However, with the plethora of smoking-related conditions, this figure is still too high.
That said, we are on the right track –around 60% of current UK smokers want to quit. And the government has been on board for some time too, with nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) available on the NHS since 2001; and the introduction of standardised cigarette packaging from May 2016. The UK was only the second country to bring this into law.
Benefits of Stopping Smoking
Tougher regulations and government initiatives aside, it’s important to champion the health benefits as an incentive for quitting. Due to the range of effects that smoking has on the body, quitting can drastically improve almost every aspect of an ex-smoker’s health. Heart rate lowers because as the arteries widen, reducing the risk of stroke and heart attack; the stomach lining becomes stronger, cutting the likelihood of ulcers; and the lungs clear, lessening the chances of emphysema and cancer.
And they’re just some of the major concerns. Everyday benefits include eliminating coughing, clearer skin, fewer wrinkles, fresh breath, healthy teeth and gums, and even a better sense of taste.
In fact, the NHS calculates that after one year of not smoking, the benefits are already significant; major health risks are reduced by half. And after 15 years, the baseline health is similar to someone who has never smoked.
More than ever, with the increase in and availability of smoking-cessation products, the pharmacy could be a smoker’s first port of call for quitting. It’s encouraging to see so much on the shelves and behind the counter, and we must strive to make these aids accessible.
Given the range of services, there’s likely to be something for everyone, so let’s make sure we’re able to pass on the best advice. As well as traditional NRT such as patches, gum, lozenges and sprays, ‘vape pens’ and ‘e-cigarettes’ have seen a surge in popularity. The NHS also offers free stop-smoking services including one-to-one treatment, with success shown to be four times more likely with support.