Reaching smokers where they live: next steps in the journey towards the Government’s vision of a smokefree generation



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Reaching smokers where they live: next steps in the journey towards the Government’s vision of a smokefree generation

20 November 2018

A new report [1], published today [Tuesday 20th November] by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and launched at a joint event in Parliament between the APPG on Healthy Homes and Buildings and the APPG on Smoking and Health, calls for action to address smoking closer to where people live. The report, Smoking in the home; new solutions for the smokefree generation, sets out how an innovative focus on smoking in the home could provide important new routes for smokers to quit and help protect children and non-smokers from exposure to secondhand smoke. In doing so this could help to realise the Government’s vision of a smokefree generation set out in the 2017 Tobacco Control Plan for England.

Smoking is now highly concentrated in some communities, particularly the rented sector. The report finds that smoking is twice as common in social housing than in other tenures [2]. The report also found that people living in social housing are less likely to successfully quit despite trying as often as other smokers [3].

High levels of smoking in poorer communities reduces the likelihood that smokers living in those communities will successfully quit, increases the likelihood that children will be exposed to smoke in the home and that they will take up smoking themselves. As a result, smoking-related illness is much more common among both adults and children in these communities.

This report was developed in collaboration with health, housing and academic experts, informed by tenant focus groups and is backed by 35 organisations. It looks across all types of housing to identify practical actions to reduce smoking in the home. It does not call for a ban on smoking in the home but rather calls for greater engagement of housing and health professionals in the communities that need the most support. The report calls for action to achieve:

  • Local and national leadership to reduce rates of smoking in the home
  • Media campaigns and local health promotion to support smokefree homes messaging
  • Smoking cessation support in communities with the highest rates of smoking
  • The delivery of brief advice across sectors, particularly the housing sector
  • Tobacco harm reduction methods embedded into smokefree homes support
  • Promotion of the financial gains from stopping smoking
  • Specific action for vulnerable groups of tenants
  • A standardised approach to fire safety to reduce smoking in the home
  • Improved compliance and enforcement of existing legislation and increased support for neighbours exposed to smoke drift
  • Engagement with tenants about the issue of smoking
  • Inclusion of measures to reduce smoking as part of new housing developments
  • Protection of workers from exposure to smoke in the home
  • Greater collaboration to tackle the sale of illicit tobacco in domestic settings

Lee Sugden, Chief Executive of Salix Homes and Co-Chair of the report, said: “People living in social housing are twice as likely to smoke as anyone else, so as a social landlord, we have an important role to play in supporting our tenants to lead a healthier lifestyle, whether that be initiatives like providing vaping starter kits, or signposting them to the right support services.

This is not about a ban on smoking in homes; this is about raising awareness of the significant health inequalities of those living in some communities and recognising how we as landlords can help and support people to quit the habit.”

Salix Homes has also been involved in a successful pilot project with public health in Salford. The pilot has seen over a thousand tenants provided with access to free e-cigarette starter kits and additional support to help them quit.

At the end of the project, 63% had quit smoking and the stop smoking services had seen four times as many people accessing support and five times as many people successfully quit.

Ruth Tennent, Director of Public Health Leicester City Council and Co-Chair of the report, said: “Despite falls in smoking prevalence, smoking is the leading cause of premature death. Continued progress, particularly in our most deprived communities, depends on finding new partnerships and innovative policies. This report is a fresh way to look at old challenges and I look forward to working with my colleagues in housing to make it a local reality.”

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH, said: “This report does not call for a blanket ban on smoking in the home. It is focused on increasing the support to smokers where they live and raising awareness around the role many more professionals could play in tackling entrenched and high rates of smoking in some of our poorest communities.”

Cllr Paul Carter, Leader of Kent County Council, said: “Exposure to smoke is shaped by where we live, our communities and our peer groups. This report by ASH presents the home as a focal point to reduce the burden of tobacco. If we’re to drive down premature mortality this must be a focus for the future.”

Cllr Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council, said: “Everyone has the right to live in a smokefree household. A place-based approach can bring the support smokers need to the doorstep. Ending the 10-year gap in life expectancy between society’s richest and poorest requires practical action and these recommendations are a good place to start.” 

Cllr Sara Bedford Leader of Three Rivers District Council, said: “Housing and the communities we live in are crucial to good health. As a District Council our oversight of housing creates opportunities for us to ensure that the best support is available to tenants. I urge my colleagues across District Councils to think about what more they can do.”

ENDS

Notes and Links:

Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. For more information see: www.ash.org.uk/about-ash

ASH receives funding for its programme of work from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.

ASH staff are available for interview and have an ISDN line. For more information send an email to press@ash.org.uk or ring 020 7404 0242. Out of hours contact Deborah Arnott (Chief Executive, ASH) on 07976 935 987 or Hazel Cheeseman (Director of Policy, ASH) on 07754 358 593.

References:

[1] Action on Smoking and Health, Smoking in the home; new solutions for the Smokefree Generation, 2018. You can read the full report here and the executive summary here.

[2] Office of National Statistics, Opinion and Lifestyle Survey 2017, 2018 https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/drugusealcoholandsmoking/datasets/supplementarydatatables

Smoking rates vary between housing tenure:

  • 35% of residents in social housing smoke
  • 25% of residents in private rented housing smoke
  • 11% of residents in owner occupied housing smoke

[3] Smith C, Jackson SE, Cheeseman H, West R, Brown J. Finding smoking hotspots: a cross sectional survey of smoking patterns by housing tenure in England. Addiction. In revision.