Over 6 million adults in England still smoke, and it remains the leading cause of premature death, with almost 75,000 preventable deaths a year. In Kent smoking rates have fallen from around one-in-five (20.2%) in 2011 to less than one-in-seven (13.7%) in 2019.
A new nationwide survey of 2,000 current smokers has found that nearly half (45%) have been smoking more since the first lockdown began. Key reasons reported are due to being bored in the lockdowns (43%) or the pandemic making them more anxious (42%). Data from the monthly UCL Smoking Toolkit Study indicates a large increase in smoking among the under-35s since the coronavirus pandemic, up from 18% in 2019 to 24% now.*
Kent County Council’s Interim Director for Public Health, Allison Duggal said: “We know that the pandemic created lots of stressful and challenging situations and early indications show that people may have started or resumed smoking as a way of coping during the pandemic but we also know the links between smoking and serious health implications if you get Covid-19 as smoking damages the lungs and airways, making it harder to breathe. Each cigarette fills our lungs with toxins which harm the immune system and leave us more vulnerable to infections.”
She adds: “It’s never too late to quit – stopping smoking brings immediate benefits to health, including for people with an existing smoking-related disease. Stoptober offers a range of free quitting support including the NHS Quit Smoking app while expert support from local One You Kent stop smoking services gives people the best chance of success, and GPs and pharmacists can also give advice and tips to help smokers quit, including what prescription medicines might be right for them. Find out more now at www.kent.gov.uk/stoptober”
The disruptive impacts of the pandemic on smoking patterns make this year’s Stoptober mass quit attempt more important than ever. Stopping smoking brings multiple benefits to health, some immediate and others that build over time. These include being able to start moving better, being able to breathe more easily and saving money. The average smoker can save £1,875.60, a year by quitting smoking.
Stoptober is based on research that if a smoker can make it to 28 days smoke free, they are five times more likely to quit for good. The campaign first launched in 2012 when one in five adults smoked (19.3%); this has since fallen to one in seven in England (13.9%). Stoptober offers a range of free quitting tools including: the NHS Quit Smoking app, Facebook messenger bot, Stoptober Facebook online communities, daily emails and SMS, and an online Personal Quit Plan. The Personal Quit Plan helps people find a combination of support that’s right for them, including expert support from local Stop Smoking Services and stop smoking aids.
Jason Mahoney, Tobacco Programme Lead for PHE South East said: “Stoptober has been hugely successful in helping smokers to quit since its launch 10 years ago. There are two million fewer smokers in England today than there were 10 years ago, and at the same time we have seen a significant downward trend in smoking rates in across Kent and Medway.
“The rise in in smoking among the under-35s since the coronavirus pandemic, up from 18% in 2019 to 24% now, is worrying and shows the importance of campaigns such as Stoptober in helping people up and down the country to take the decision to quit.
“Campaigns like Stoptober, which provides support to smokers, have proven to be enormously helpful in encouraging people to quit and maintaining motivation. Quitting smoking will not only immediately improve your physical health but also your bank balance. Research shows that if you can make it to 28 days smoke free then you are five times more likely to quit for good.”
Susan Piddock, One You Kent’s Professional Lead for Stop Smoking said: “We know it’s tough to quit smoking, but you don’t have to go it alone and you are more likely to succeed with our support. If you can quit for 28 days, you are five times more likely to quit for good so why not give it a go?
“Our NHS trained smokefree advisers offer free, friendly support when you need it most, including free nicotine replacement therapy. We’ve supported over 3000 smokers to quit over the past year. Stopping smoking is the best thing you can do for your health and Stoptober is an ideal opportunity to quit.”
Ross Wheatley, from Dover, vowed to quit after a type 1 diabetes diagnosis and then the COVID pandemic put a very definite stop to his nights out with his smoker workmates, where a pint and a cigarette went hand-in-hand. He has not had a cigarette since 28 December 2019. Ross said: “I’ve tried many times to quit, but I am a good example to keep trying, even if you have gone back to smoking again and again. The diabetes has spurred me on this time, but it is also something when you come in from the garden after a cigarette and your daughter says ‘Daddy, you smell of smoke’. She always gave me a cuddle, but I know she was putting up with it. I’ve saved £200 a month on cigarettes and my guilty pleasure now is buying 90s hip hop, soul and R&B vinyl.”
Eluned Hughes, Head of Health Advice at Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation, said: “Quitting smoking is one of the best things anyone can do to improve their overall health. Smoking seriously damages the lungs, putting people at greater risk of developing conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
“It is vital, now more than ever, that people protect their lungs by giving up this deadly habit. No matter how long you have been a smoker, it is never too late to give up, and if you do already have a lung condition, then quitting is one of the best things you can do to help yourself. As Stoptober marks its tenth anniversary, why not take the first step to quitting for good?”
Smokers are being urged to join the thousands of people who are stopping smoking this October. For free support to quit search ‘Stoptober’ or go to www.kent.gov.uk/stoptober for information on local support services to help you quit.