Don’t give up on giving up: The message from healthcare professionals to smokers this No Smoking Day



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9th March 2022
Smokers are being urged to give quitting another go this No Smoking Day (9th March) as a series of powerful new films [1] from those working in the NHS are launched.

The films offer advice to people on the importance of stopping smoking and come as new YouGov data [2] commissioned by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) reveals that even when visiting their GP about a non-smoking related matter, more than two in every 5 (42%) smokers expect to get advice about quitting.

The survey highlights the difference trusted healthcare professionals can make, with the findings showing:

  • 28% of smokers say that the advice would prompt them to make a quit attempt.
  • A further 35% would be encouraged to quit at a later date or to cut down the number of cigarettes smoked.
  • Even among smokers who say they wouldn’t expect advice to stop, more than half (53%) would take some action to address their smoking if their GP advised them to do so.

Today the British Thoracic Society also publish preliminary results from an audit of over 14,000 hospital patient records in 2021. This found that less than half of smokers had been advised to stop and under a third had been offered medication to help with their smoking. [3] This highlights the importance of a new programme the NHS is currently rolling out to offer support to every smoker who stays in hospital in England.[4]

The new films are voiced by healthcare professionals from across the country in recognition of the impact their words can have on smokers.

By informing patients of the risks of smoking and the best ways to quit it can often help prevent them developing serious complications and smoking related illnesses.

Dr Shanika Sharma, a GP in London, who is featured in one of the films advising smokers said:

“Advising patients to stop smoking is important, as smoking remains the biggest preventable cause of illness and death. One in every two people who smoke will die of a smoking-related disease unless they quit.

“There are so many chances throughout a smokers’ life for doctors like me to help them stop and change their lives forever, which is why I’m so proud to be part of this campaign. This No Smoking Day, the five minutes we spend talking to patients could be the most important lifesaving intervention we make that day.

“The message I want to send to every smoker is that we are here to support you.”

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health, who is helping to co-ordinate this year’s No Smoking Day, said:

“No one should give up on giving up. Every time someone tries to stop smoking, they are a step closer to success. Like anything worth doing it can take practice to stop smoking – but there is lots of help out there.

“Smokers are three times more likely to succeed in quitting with help from a trained professional than with willpower alone. Healthcare professionals can refer them to this support but smokers can also find their local free service by searching ‘smokefree’ and entering their postcode.

“NHS staff fear smokers won’t listen to them, but they can make the difference. Most smokers wish they’d never started and are looking for a way out. Any health professional can help show them the way and have an everlasting impact on someone’s health. Today is the day to seize the moment.”

Dr David Strain, British Medical Association (BMA) board of science chair, said:

“We should celebrate the fact that smoking rates are lower now than at any point in the last hundred years. But millions still need help to quit. This isn’t just a question of improving health but addressing inequality, with smoking far more common among people with lower incomes and those experiencing other disadvantage such as poor mental health. As doctors we must play our part in advising our patients to stop and ending the terrible burden of smoking on society.”

A case study of smoker who quit with support of their pharmacist is available on request.

Visit www.nhs.uk/better-health/quit-smoking/ to find out where you can get free access to the latest quitting aids, apps, information, one-to-one advice, and local support.

ENDS

Notes to the Editor

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.

References

[1] Download the films and other visual assets for No Smoking Day via todayistheday.co.uk

[2] Total sample size was 4,537 adults of which 602 were smokers. Fieldwork was undertaken between 7th – 9th February 2022 by YouGov Plc.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+)

[3] British Thoracic Society

[4] The NHS is implementing of programme of bedside support for smokers in hospital and additional support for pregnant smokers and smokers in treatment for mental health conditions. The programme is due to be fully rolled out by 2023/24: https://www.longtermplan.nhs.uk/online-version/chapter-2-more-nhs-action-on-prevention-and-health-inequalities/smoking/