October 2014

smoking kills

Did You Know?

  • Tobacco is the only product you can legally buy that will kill 1 out of 2 people who use it
  • Smoking is a chronic disease of children and adults, need to detox before quiting
  • 40% - 60% of smokers are mentally ill
  • People with OCD have low rates of smoking
  • It takes 8 seconds for your brain to register pleasure or calm from smoking
Smoking Prevalence

Smoking Prevalence: Are We at a Tipping Point?

Compared to other key public health issues, such as obesity and alcohol consumption which are both on the rise in the UK, smoking prevalence has declined. In 2013, rates of smoking fell below 20 per cent, which is believed to be the lowest level for 80 years. The decline started in the 1970s and has averaged a 0.6% reduction per year.

Despite this, there are millions of people still addicted to these lethal products. In the UK, around one-sixth of the population smoke cigarettes, with 22% being men in the 25-35 age group. Rates are higher among the poorer parts of the population: 33% of cigarette smokers are in routine or manual occupations compared with 14% who are in managerial or professional jobs. About half of all regular smokers will eventually be killed by their habit and around 100,000 die each year from smoking-related causes.

There is a huge body of evidence to confirm a link between smoking and poor dental health. As well as nicotine-stained teeth and unpleasant breath, smokers have an increased risk of developing periodontal disease. Not only is smoking associated with an increased rate of periodontal bone loss and pocket formation, but it also has a negative impact on therapy and healing.

Encouraging your patients to seek smoking detoxification and cessation services is not just essential to their oral health and preventing disease and tooth loss, but avoiding potentially fatal conditions.

The Rise of the Electronic Cigarette

With a wide variety of products available there is now a million-pound industry dedicated to electronic cigarettes, or 'vaping'. There is much debate about the benefits and risks of using them however, which has intensified since some brands have been marketed more aggressively. In the UK, this is likely a reaction to the smoking ban in enclosed workspaces and other public places in 2007, as well as the potential future ban on smoking in cars when children are present.

The increased use of e-cigarettes in England has been accompanied by a small increase in the amount of smokers who try to stop. In England, the growth of e-cigarettes has also been accompanied by a reduction in the use of licensed nicotine products and prescription medication. Furthermore, 15% of attempts to stop in the last year have involved e-cigarettes and the most common reason given for using them is to stop smoking completely, or at least cut down.

Smokers who use e-cigarettes are more likely to abstain from cigarettes for a few months than those who go 'cold turkey', yet they are also less likely to stop completely than smokers who attend cessation support. Critics feel that e-cigarettes in flavours like 'Gummy Bear' and 'peanut butter' could encourage teenagers to develop an addiction which may lead to cigarette smoking. According to ASH, however, vaping among non or never-smokers is rare - currently less than 0.2% of users.

In June 2014, the British Medical Association wrote to the World Health Organization calling for a total ban on using e-cigarettes in public places, essentially to avoid undermining the current no-smoking policies until the side-effects (which includes any harmful impact on bystanders) have been properly researched and mapped. And this is the key - until long-term research is available, the debate will rage on. The fear is, e-cigarettes could undermine tobacco control and 'renormalise' smoking to a whole generation who have no memory of smoking being permitted in bars and restaurants. Permission to use e-cigarettes indoors still needs to be sought in many places and is very much at the proprietor's discretion. In the meantime, it appears the UK government will err on the side of caution when it comes to promoting e-cigarettes as an aid to stopping smoking.

What Can We Do?

In the UK, events like Stoptober and No Smoking Day form part of the government's drive to incentivise people to stop. Across the country, smoking cessation services can be accessed via the NHS. The service includes advice from trained personnel, self-help materials and referral for more intensive support. During the period April 2012 to March 2013, 724,247 people set a quit date through NHS Stop Smoking Services.

Increasing the cost of manufactured cigarettes and hand-rolled tobacco through taxation has been happening for some time now. Also, there are constant calls to ban product placement and introduce standardised packaging on cigarettes - following Australia's lead in 2012. Manufacturers have fought hard to prevent this policy becoming law in the UK; as in Australia, the tobacco industry has claimed that plain packets would lead to a boom in black-market sales of illicit cigarettes and harm small retailers. However, a study published in the BMJ Open in 2014, carried out by Melbourne's Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, appears to refute these fears. The research showed that the proportion of smokers buying illicit, unbranded cigarettes not only remained low but even decreased slightly. Daily smoking rates in Australia also fell by 15 per cent between 2010 and December 2013, and these encouraging figures could be instrumental in convincing the government to push through plans for standardised packaging in the UK.