Wednesday 26th May 2010: Healthcare resources and services for smoking cessation need to be properly funded and supported, and smokers encouraged and supported to use them, if Ireland is to reduce the number of smoking-related illnesses and deaths. This will be one of the topics addressed at a major international conference on tobacco control which will take place in Dublin’s Mansion House tomorrow. It is estimated that approximately 7,000 people die from tobacco use in Ireland every year, costing millions of euro annually to the healthcare system for treating tobacco-related illnesses.
The conference, entitled “Working Together Towards a Tobacco Free Society”, is being organised by the joint agencies of ASH Ireland, the Environmental Health Officers’ Association, the Health Service Executive, the Irish Cancer Society, the Irish Heart Foundation, the Irish Thoracic Society, the National Cancer Control Programme and the TobaccoFree Research Institute, together with Pfizer Healthcare Ireland. It will feature a wide range of Irish and international guest speakers on tobacco control.
In advance of the conference, Pfizer commissioned new independent research amongst smokers, non-smokers and ex-smokers on their attitudes to smoking. The research found that 90% of smokers believe they are addicted or would find it very hard to quit smoking, reinforcing the need for more support for smoking cessation services. It also found that smokers have actively tried to quit a number of times, with current smokers citing an average of almost four (3.95) quit attempts.
Commenting on the need for more support for smoking cessation services, Ms. Norma Cronin, Health Promotion Manager Irish Cancer Society said “Research has proven that support services can play a significant role in helping people quit smoking. As 70% of smokers want to quit there is need for a comprehensive and uniform approach for stop smoking services nationwide. Such services would encourage and assist the one million smokers currently living in Ireland to quit and reduce the unacceptably high level of tobacco related deaths. We hope that tomorrow’s conference will help highlight this issue with a view to ensuring effective policies and programmes are in place across the country.”
One worrying statistic the research also reveals is that there is a opinion amongst smokers that they ‘fit in’ socially with 36% of smokers claiming this opposed to just 27% of non-smokers. Despite their belief in fitting in socially, smokers may not be a popular as they believe, especially in the workplace, and there is a significant difference in how smokers are perceived as workmates in terms of their productivity. When asked if they think smokers are less productive than non-smokers as they need to take breaks, over 63% of non-smokers agreed, unlike just 39% of smokers who concurred with the statement2.
The World Health Organisation has selected ‘Gender and Tobacco’ with an emphasis on marketing to women, as the theme for World No Tobacco Day which will take place on 31st May 2010. In Ireland, 27% percent of the female population (aged 16 and over) smoke, and 2,422 Irish women die as a result of smoking-related diseases each year. Other research shows that across Europe, women are less confident in their ability to quit smoking than men (30% of women versus 53% of men). 42% percent of women in Ireland would not consider visiting their doctor / healthcare professional for advice about quitting smoking, even though research shows that just brief advice from a healthcare professional can increase the likelihood of a smoker staying off cigarettes by up to 30%.
Ms. Karen Gutierrez, of Global Dialogue for Effective Stop Smoking Campaigns is a social marketing consultant and an expert on how tobacco is marketed a guest speaker at the conference. “Because the tobacco companies are aggressively marketing to women throughout the world, we need to be equally aggressive in our public education efforts. We must make women aware of the very serious negative impacts of smoking—the great majority of women know smoking is dangerous, but few realize how very bad the impacts can be on them and their children—And we must let them know about the most effective ways to quit smoking. Furthermore, we should support them in their quitting attempts and provide them with tools and resources that will increase the likelihood that they will be able to quit for good.”
The HSE recently published a National Tobacco Control Framework which sets out the strategic direction for Tobacco Control for the HSE for the coming five years. One of the actions noted within the framework is the ongoing necessity to support tobacco cessation specialists in their work and to engage with allied health professionals to expand their role in tobacco cessation. Tomorrow’s conference will examine Irish and international advancements in tobacco control, with a view to looking at how Ireland might be better informed in recommending a way towards a tobacco free society and a reduction in smoking prevalence. A one-day workshop for tobacco cessation officers and relevant health professionals will also take place on Friday to assist those involved in smoking cessation support services to develop their skills in treating the highly dependent tobacco user.
Mr. David Gallagher, Managing Director, Pfizer Healthcare Ireland said “Pfizer is delighted to once again partner with some of Ireland’s key organisations for this conference on the issue of tobacco control. Whilst preventing people from taking up smoking is key in the fight against tobacco, there is also a great need to provide those who already smoke with the right support they need to stop successfully. Many initiatives are already underway across Ireland to address the serious health issue of smoking, but there is a constant challenge to ensure that these efforts are sustained for long-term change. We hope that tomorrow’s conference will give a renewed focus on the need for ongoing support in this area.”
Published: 27th May 2010.