The new tobacco control plan, ‘Towards a smoke free generation’ is a welcome restatement of the government’s commitment to reduce the prevalence, and hence the burden of death and disability caused, by smoking. The recognition that harm reduction strategies can play a key role in achieving these ambitions is applauded, and puts the UK at the forefront of global tobacco policy. However, the ambition to reduce adult smoking in England from 15.5% to 12% by 2022, representing as it does a reduction of 0.5 of a percentage point per year, is modest given that smoking prevalence has fallen by 2.9 percentage points in the last three years.
Recognising reducing smoking in pregnancy as a priority, and aiming to reduce prevalence in pregnancy to 6% or less, is welcome but will not be achieved without adequate resources, improved care pathways and addressing significant gaps in training for midwives and obstetricians. The commitment to make NHS inpatient mental health settings smoke-free by 2018 is long overdue, but it is disappointing that the same strong commitment is not extended to other NHS settings.
The ambition to make stop-smoking services more available is also welcome, but like the commitments to NHS settings and for pregnancy requires funding: when public health budgets are being slashed, how will local authorities afford to increase their smoking service provision?
What matters now is delivery: Action to achieve and exceed these ambitions is the next and crucial step
PDF of the Press Release
E-cigarette use during pregnancy – What do we know?
At the June Global Forum on Nicotine event Professor Linda Bauld from the University of Stirling and Deputy Director of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, presented an update on e-cigarette use during pregnancy. In the presentation Linda highlights the latest research, a brief overview of smoking in pregnancy and why pregnant women who are still smoking should be encouraged to switch to e-cigarettes.
Smokefree action’s info-graphic on e-cigarettes in pregnancy
To see other presentations from the conference click here.
Latest press release from UKCTAS:
UK smoking rates showed a record annual fall between 2015 and 2016 of 1.5 percentage points, based on new statistics released today [Link]. The prevalence of smoking among people aged 18 and above in 2016 was 15.8%, the lowest on record. This dramatic reduction is also the second largest annual fall in the last 40 years.
The UK is an international leader in smoking prevention policy, having introduced high tobacco taxes, a comprehensive advertising ban, prohibited smoking in public places, taken tobacco products out of sight in shops, establishing specialist stop-smoking services and a range of other measures. These policies have caused a sustained downward trend in adult smoking prevalence over the past two decades. Over the past five years, however, the rate of decline has increased substantially, falling by 4.4 percentage points, from 20.2%, since 2011.
Today’s new figures indicate UK smoking is falling faster than would be expected from conventional tobacco control approaches. While all the policies put in place will have made a difference, the most likely explanation for the recent rapid decline is the increasing use by smokers of electronic cigarettes as a substitute for tobacco. Data released by ASH last month estimated that there are now 1.5m people in the UK who used to smoke but now instead use electronic cigarettes.
Professor John Britton said:
“Electronic cigarettes were patented in 2004 but we began to see their use in the UK from around 2010. Since then the proportion of smokers using them has risen steadily. They have rapidly become the most popular aid to stopping smoking, and are now used in more than one third of quit attempts. At first we were unsure what their impact on smoking rates would be, but today’s figures suggest that alongside established tobacco control policies, they may have significantly accelerated the downward trend in smoking”
“Overall these findings vindicate UK policy on vaping: and that doing more to encourage more smokers to make the switch could generate huge benefits in public health: especially among those groups in society where smoking remains common.”
Professor Ann McNeill said:
“Since the millennium the UK has implemented a comprehensive tobacco control strategy to encourage and support smokers to stop and to deter young people from taking up smoking. This strategy included encouraging smokers to switch from deadly cigarettes to less harmful forms of nicotine including electronic cigarettes. It is really important that the new government continues this comprehensive approach and publishes its new Tobacco Control Plan as soon as possible, particularly given the need to tackle inequalities in smoking rates across society. In times of austerity, tobacco control is a good investment, as it benefits not just smokers and their families, but services like the NHS which bear the enormous costs of treating smoking-related illnesses”
Professor Linda Bauld added:
“The UK has taken a liberal approach to vaping, supporting the use of these consumer products for smokers who choose to use them. This has been controversial, and other countries have taken a much more restrictive approach. These new prevalence figures for adults, alongside steady declines in youth smoking uptake, suggest that electronic cigarettes may turn out to be a game changer for tobacco control. However, we know that many smokers are still wary of these products and think they are as harmful as tobacco. That needs to change if the positive trend we see from today’s figures is to be maintained.”
• Adult smoking habits in the UK: 2016 – Released 15 June 2017 External Link
• Smoking statistics in England – 15 June 2017 – Latest smoking compendium report signposting to all the up-to-date smoking data. External Link
Download the PDF version of this Press Release
The Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group (TAG) conducts and facilitates systematic reviews and meta-analyses of the research evidence for tobacco cessation and prevention interventions. The group was founded in 1996 and in 2016 they conducted a stakeholder engagement project to celebrate the 20th anniversary of TAG and to identify future research priorities for the group and the wider tobacco control community.
The objective of the project was to:
- Raise awareness of Cochrane TAG and what has been achieved so far.
- Identify areas where further research is needed in the areas of tobacco control and smoking cessation.
- Identify specific goals for Cochrane TAG
- To explore novel ways to disseminate the findings of tobacco research, and Cochrane TAG’s findings.
The survey and workshop resulted in 183 unanswered research questions in the areas of tobacco, quitting smoking and eight priority research areas, including:
- ‘addressing inequalities’
- ‘treatment delivery’
- electronic cigarettes’
- ‘initiating quit attempts’
- ‘young people’
- ‘mental health and substance abuse’
- ‘population-level interventions’
Stakeholders who attended the workshop also discussed ways that the public health community and Cochrane TAG could act to move the field of tobacco control forward.
Through this report, Cochrane TAG want to share the identified unanswered questions with the wider tobacco research community to help them to decide the most important research to focus on in the future, and to decide the most important things to work on for Cochrane TAG.
This will involve updating existing reviews, beginning reviews on new topics, and looking in more detail at Cochrane TAG’s research methods.
Contrary to popular belief there are still many important unanswered questions in the field of tobacco control. In addition, it has been noted that many of the results of tobacco control questions are not always reaching their intended targets. Tobacco control stakeholders provide a rich source of information on how these uncertainties should be prioritised; by using this resource the likelihood that the findings of research are useful and will be implemented is much greater. The project was carried out with the hope that researchers and research funders will be able to use the priorities identified to inform their future practice, in the same way that Cochrane TAG are using them to inform new review topics, updates of reviews and methods development.
Cochrane TAG’s findings and implementation suggestions should be considered alongside the existing evidence base and clinical expertise.
You can open the report and the appendices by clicking on the covers below:
Discussing the future of tobacco addiction research with the Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group:
The CTAG taps project ran from January-December 2016. Activities carried out from April 2016-December 2016 were funded by the NIHR School for Primary Care Research (SPCR)