The introduction of smokefree workplaces in England has delivered exceptional public health progress: workers in enclosed public places are now protected from secondhand smoke, and an estimated 400,000 smokers quit within the first year. This could prevent 40,000 deaths over the next 10 years. Not surprisingly, research from the Department of Health has found high levels of public support and compliance. This is an outstanding achievement and shows that the conviction displayed by all of those MPs who supported this landmark change was both justified and crucial.
Smokefree workplaces, however, should not be seen as the final piece of the jigsaw. There are still challenges to be met. Around 10 million adults smoke cigarettes in Great Britain and prevalence rates are highest amongst low income groups and young people. Every year, over 100,000 smokers in the UK die from smoking related causes. Smoking accounts for over one-third of respiratory deaths, over one-quarter of cancer deaths, and about one-seventh of cardiovascular disease deaths. (ASH, April 2014). It also has an impact on the social care system. A study conducted for ASH in 2014 showed that current smokers, and to a lesser extent former smokers, are more likely than people who have never smoked to need domiciliary care as they age, which in many cases will have to be paid for from Council funds. The study estimated that the cost to English local authorities would be between £560 and £660 million per year in terms of increased spending on domiciliary care.
Since the publication of the last government’s tobacco control plan ‘Smoking Kills’ in 1998 the prohibition of most forms of tobacco advertising, the creation of the NHS stop smoking services and the enactment of smokefree legislation represent outstanding progress and have delivered important public health benefits over recent years. However, smoking continues to kill far too many people. The Smokefree Action Coalition, a group of organisations dedicated to improving public health, including the CIEH, believes that if we are to stop tobacco taking more lives we must maintain the momentum and build on the success of smokefree workplaces. In 2008 we published our vision for what needs to be done.
In March 2011 the Coalition Government published its tobacco control strategy, Healthy lives, healthy people: a tobacco control plan for England.
The CIEH has fully endorsed the Local Government Declaration on Tobacco Control and encourages councils across the country to join those who have already signed up to it.
The Declaration commits local authorities to taking concerted action to protect their communities from the harm tobacco causes.
Electronic cigarettes are different from normal cigarettes. Many, but not all, are in the form of thin white tubes that look like cigarettes. Some contain nicotine, some do not. Some produce a white odourless vapour, others produce no vapour at all. They do not burn tobacco and do not create smoke (products of combustion). They are currently covered by consumer legislation but the CIEH and others believe that additional safeguards are required to ensure the products are effective, deliver nicotine safely and are manufactured to a consistent quality and are described and advertised appropriately. Together with ASH we have produced a briefing note for businesses on e-cigarettes.