Comment

Hazel Cheeseman: Free your patients from the tobacco trap

The ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces has been a huge public health success. But thousands of people remain at risk from smoking – and interventions by nurses could save them, says the director of policy at campaigning charity ASH.
smoke

The ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces has been a huge public health success. But thousands of people remain at risk from smoking and interventions by nurses could save them, says the director of policy at campaigning charity ASH.

Saturday 1 July is an important landmark for public health in England as we celebrate the tenth anniversary of smoke-free legislation that effectively stubbed out smoking in enclosed public spaces.

After a long struggle against vested interests, people across the country were finally protected from the toxic effects of secondhand smoke. People were able to take their children to restaurants knowing they would not be exposed to tobacco smoke, and those who wished could go to their local for a drink and enjoy clean air.

Its difficult

...

The ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces has been a huge public health success. But thousands of people remain at risk from smoking – and interventions by nurses could save them, says the director of policy at campaigning charity ASH.

smoke
The ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces turned the tide against tobacco.
 Picture: iStock

Saturday 1 July is an important landmark for public health in England as we celebrate the tenth anniversary of smoke-free legislation that effectively stubbed out smoking in enclosed public spaces.

After a long struggle against vested interests, people across the country were finally protected from the toxic effects of secondhand smoke. People were able to take their children to restaurants knowing they would not be exposed to tobacco smoke, and those who wished could go to their local for a drink and enjoy clean air.

It’s difficult to overstate the benefits for public health. In the year following the legislation there was a 2.4% reduction in hospital admissions for heart attacks – 1,200 fewer in a single year. In the three years following the legislation there were almost 7,000 fewer hospital admissions for childhood asthma.

Public spaces

The success of the ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces turned the tide against tobacco. Smoking in work vehicles and cars carrying children is now prohibited, prisons are in the process of going smoke-free, and hospital grounds are commonly smoke-free, as are railway stations and football grounds.

Visually branded tobacco packages are a thing of the past. Retailers have to keep cigarettes out of sight, and smaller packs – more affordable to children – are no longer available.

We know these measures work. Smoking prevalence is falling, especially among young adults, and more people than ever are trying to quit.

‘The contribution of the nursing profession to tobacco control has been crucial, and there are ways in which nurses can continue to support progress towards a smoke-free future’

The UK is a world leader in tobacco control, but we have a great deal more to do. Top of the list is for the government to publish a new tobacco control plan. Since the last plan expired at the end of 2015 more than 196,000 children have taken up smoking. Many will die on average 10 years earlier as a result.

At ASH we strongly believe that nurses need to be trained to play their part in reducing the number of people who smoke. We will soon be publishing a report on the training of midwives, and will actively contribute to the current Nursing and Midwifery Council consultation on educational standards.

In the future we expect all nurses not only to be trained in the harms of smoking but in how, in a brief conversation, they can motivate a smoker to quit.

The contribution of the nursing profession to tobacco control has been crucial, and there are ways in which nurses can continue to support progress towards a smoke-free future. One of the most important involves micro-interventions with patients.

Be supportive

Encourage them to quit, or to attempt to quit, and keep up to date with the smoking cessation services on offer in your area. For those who are in the middle of an attempt to quit and are having difficulty, be patient, listen and know where to direct them for further support.

You can also help your hospital or workplace become smoke-free by understanding the policy that is in place and helping to gently implement it. Also try to understand the use of alternative products, such as the practically harmless electronic cigarettes.

Perhaps most importantly, avoid stigmatising those who continue to smoke. Recognise that it is an addiction, usually instigated in childhood and promoted by the tobacco industry. It’s not an informed adult choice for which someone can be blamed, but a trap laid by a voracious industry.

Be supportive and help patients escape the trap and bring them along with us to a smoke-free future.


hazelHazel Cheeseman is director of policy at Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), a campaigning public health charity. Click here for more information

Want to read more?

Subscribe for unlimited access

Enjoy 1 month's access for £1 and get:

  • Full access to nursing standard.com and the Nursing Standard app
  • Monthly digital edition
  • RCNi Portfolio and interactive CPD quizzes
  • RCNi Learning with 200+ evidence-based modules
  • 10 articles a month from any other RCNi journal

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs