Date Published: 17 February 2010

The Irish Cancer Society comments on National No Smoking Day

Health News from Ireland

One third of people living in Ireland smoking but, accoring to the Irish Cancer Society, the Irish Government has still not faced need for well-funded, nationwide and coordinated stop-smoking services

UK NICE Guidelines recommend that stop-smoking services should aim to treat at least 5% of smokers per year. Key service National Smokers’ Quitline only reached 5,700 in 2009.

Today, Wednesday February 17th, is National No Smoking Day and the Irish Cancer Society is highlighting the need for a uniform, consistent and well funded approach to stop-smoking services nationwide. Such services should aim to discourage young people from taking up smoking and to encourage all smokers to quit. Currently 29% of people living in Ireland smoke.

Evidence from other countries shows that when State expenditure on stop-smoking services increases, there is a reduction in the numbers of people smoking. For example between 2002 and 2008, the UK increased expenditure on stop-smoking services by almost €36 million to a total of €61 million and as a result the percentage of the population smoking decreased from 27% to 24%. During the same period of time in Ireland, the percentage of the population smoking increased from 27% to 29%, despite the introduction of the ban on smoking in the workplace.

International guidelines suggest that stop-smoking services should aim to treat at least five percent of smokers each year in order to achieve an appreciable reduction in the number of people dying from smoking-related illnesses. While stop-smoking services are available in each of the four Health Service Executive areas, the reach of services is currently insufficient to provide the target five percent of smokers with an appropriate level of service. For example, in the North County Dublin area where there is a population of 450,000, there are just two part-time smoking cessation officers working a total of 48 hours per week. Four full-time posts are needed to provide effective support to smokers in a population of this size.

" Stop-smoking services are extremely cost-effective but currently no comprehensive national best practice guidelines exist for Ireland, and there is no concerted approach to help the 70% of smokers who want to quit. We are calling on the Government to establish national best practice criteria for the provision of stop-smoking services and to increase resources to ensure staffing levels can adequately reach the recommended five percent of the smoking population. Giving up smoking can be difficult because nicotine is highly addictive but these services greatly improve a person's chance of successfully quitting for good. Our Government needs to step in and do more to help those who want to quit,” said Ms Kathleen O’Meara, Head of Advocacy and Communications, Irish Cancer Society.

The Society is also calling on the HSE to increase advertising spend on the National Smokers’ Quitline. Norma Cronin, Health Promotion Manager, Irish Cancer Society, said

At a national level, the Irish Cancer Society runs the National Smokers’ Quitline in partnership with the HSE. The Quitline offers advice, information and support to smokers and has been proven to help smokers quit. However, without sufficient advertising behind the Quitline, smokers wishing to quit are unaware of its existence and are not prompted to call. In 2004 the Quitline received 19,076 calls due to a significant advertising campaign around the introduction of the ban on smoking in the workplace. In 2009, the Quitline received just 5,765 calls.

Ash Wednesday is National No Smoking Day and the Irish Cancer Society is encouraging smokers to use this day to take the first positive steps towards quitting. Smoking causes 30 percent of all cancers including 95% of all lung cancers and half of all smokers will die from tobacco-related disease. Quitting smoking is the single biggest thing you can do to improve your health.

 

Source: The Irish Cancer Society.

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