‘Bold moves needed by States to reduce number of smokers’
THE number of islanders who smoke will not decrease unless there are ‘bold moves by the States’, a Health Improvement Commission adviser has said.
Controversial moves such as banning smoking in bars and restaurants, introduced in the mid-2000s, have helped to cause a significant drop in the number of people smoking, however in recent years the numbers have plateaued at about 13% of the adult population.
The statistic was discovered in a survey held in 2018.
The next survey will take place in the autumn with results due next year, but professionals are unsure what to expect of its outcomes.
‘There’s been discussion about whether it will be going up or down because we’ve had Covid in the interim, so some people potentially stopped because of Covid and the fears of it, but on the flipside there was the anxiety caused by lockdown which maybe led people to start or restart smoking,’ said Lucy Cave, tobacco harm reduction officer at the Health Improvement Commission.
‘My concern is now that potentially there will be more health inequality. Now that we’re down to 13%, the remainder of the people are likely those who are hard to reach, who might not be engaged as much with community services or healthcare.
‘If those people aren’t engaging, then those conversations aren’t happening, and they’re likely to be completely unsupported and might not even know about the services.’
The HIC supports and promotes the Quitline service, which offers therapy and counselling, as well as free nicotine replacement therapy and a free vape starter kit.
It is also in discussions with other healthcare organisations, including director of Public Health Nicola Brink, on the next steps to attempt to drop the 13% further.
Of that 13%, more than a third said they would like to stop in the next six months.
Dr Brink said that unless there was considerable movement soon, Guernsey would not hit its target of fewer than 10% by 2028.
The authorities are looking at inspiration from around the world on how to further reduce smoking locally, such as in New Zealand, where there is a rising age limit.
‘At the HIC we’re looking for potential measures and interventions with the hope that it would go to the States, because we need something quite significant to make a change,’ said Ms Cave.
‘Some countries will have impacts in the long-term, some short-term, and in Guernsey we need something to take effect now. We will be able to reach the target – but only with bold moves from the government.’
Lung health charity Lungevity agreed with Dr Brink.
‘A concerted joined approach by all relevant parties is required to achieve the target set,’ said chairman Philip Gallienne.
‘Raising the price of tobacco in itself is most welcome, but cannot always be relied on as a deterrent to this issue. Greater education on the implications of tobacco would also be most welcome.’