A strategy is being created to drive down the number of smokers in the area. Health reporter Priya Mistry speaks to leading health figures about why it’s important to get help and stub out the smoking habit
Smoking and the use of tobacco products is the number one cause of preventable death and illness in Portsmouth.
Yet experts say every day hundreds of adults continue to smoke, young people and children pick up the habit and pregnant women can put their health and their baby’s health in danger by smoking.
According to Portsmouth City Council, 22.5 per cent of people aged 18 and over in the city smoke.
This is above the national average of 19.5 per cent.
And areas of high deprivation in Hampshire also have high numbers of smokers.
In Gosport 26.5 per cent of adults smoke, compared to 16.1 per cent in Fareham.
The public health team in Portsmouth has launched the Tobacco Control Alliance to drive down these figures and improve the health of people living in the city.
Dr Janet Maxwell, director of public health for Portsmouth, says: ‘The aim of the first Tobacco Control Alliance meeting was to understand the current scale of the tobacco issue and the disease and deaths this causes in our population.
‘I am very pleased with how the workshop went and everyone who attended showed great determination about how we can work together as a city to reduce this problem.’
The alliance features Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service and NHS trusts, which are drawing plans to work together and are due to be revealed early next year.
Dr Andrew Whittamore, practice partner for Crookhorn Surgery, is the respiratory lead for south-east Hampshire, and backs this partnership work.
He says: ‘Smoking and its effects are directly linked to the lungs.
‘Smoking makes the lungs less efficient, making it harder for you to breathe.
‘It also changes the shape of the cells in your lungs, and this can bring on a number of problems such as asthma or more severe – cancer.
‘Your risk of having chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder also increases.
‘But as well as your lungs, it can cause impotence for men and increases the risk of miscarriages and cot death.
‘And babies born in a smoking household are more likely to pick up infections as they grow up.
‘It’s essential we push the stop-smoking message, as it can reduce the number of deaths and health problems.’
High levels of smoking is linked with areas that have high levels of deprivation – and this comes at a cost.
Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) has published the cost of smoking.
Ash says in Portsmouth smoking costs £61.7m a year, this includes costs through domestic fires, litter collection, costs to the health service, lost productivity due to early deaths, sickness absence and smoking breaks.
In Havant that figure is £41.4m, in Fareham it’s £37.2m, and in Gosport £36.4m.
Dr Whittamore adds: ‘We know there are pockets of high deprivation in Portsmouth.
‘Here is where you find high levels of smoking, which is seen as normal.
‘But it also means if they have a wheezy cough, they are less likely to see a doctor, because to them it’s normal.
‘They are also surrounded by other smokers, so again smoking is normal.
‘We need to work on educating people in these areas about the real health risks around the habit.’
This month is Stoptober, a national campaign that encourages people to stop smoking for 28 days, and hope people will carry this on after the challenge is over.
Councillor Liz Fairhurst, in charge of adult social care and public health for Hampshire County Council, says: ‘Evidence shows that if a smoker can go 28 days without a cigarette, they are five times more likely to stay permanently smoke-free.
‘Hampshire had the third largest number of smokers sign up to the Stoptober challenge last year.
‘For 2014 we want to take the top spot and see even more people signing up.
‘There are estimated to be 171,737 smokers in Hampshire.
‘The cost of smoking to society across Hampshire as a whole is around £427.5m, including health and social care costs, loss of productivity in businesses and dealing with waste and fires caused by cigarettes.
‘Our Trading Standards team continue their important intervention work to stamp out underage sales and help prevent habits that put young people’s health at risk into adulthood.
‘They visit shops where concerns or allegations about underage sales have been raised and work with the staff to ensure they comply with the law.
‘Although many people manage to quit on their own, using a specialist stop smoking service means a smoker is up to four times more likely to quit.’
Percentage of pregnant women smoking is high
SUPPORT is out there for pregnant mothers that would like to quit.
Figures from Portsmouth City Council show 17.3 per cent of pregnant women said they smoked during pregnancy – the national average is 12.7 per cent.
In Hampshire the figure was slightly lower than the national average, at 11.8 per cent.
One woman has shared her story anonymously about why she quit smoking when she became pregnant.
The mum from Paulsgrove says: ‘Stopping smoking was the last thing on my mind when I found out that I was pregnant.
‘I was very young and really not thinking about me or my baby.
‘It was only a few weeks later when I met my midwife and she started asking me about my life did I realise I had to make some changes.
‘I had smoked for a few years by then and felt I needed to smoke if I was stressed or tired.’
She added: ‘I thought it helped me so I was very surprised when she told me that smoking actually caused the stress I felt when I couldn’t smoke.
‘She was very nice to me and explained that I could be harming my baby if I went on smoking.
‘The clincher was how much money I was spending on my habit – it didn’t seem a lot but when the midwife showed me how much I would be spending during my pregnancy, something clicked.
‘I couldn’t afford it with a baby on the way and I was going to need help to quit.’
The woman was referred to a stop-smoking service, and with their help stubbed out the habit.
She adds: ‘It was much easier than I thought it would be so I didn’t smoke for the rest of my pregnancy.
‘My baby was born healthy and at a good weight so my midwife was really pleased with me.
‘I was glad that I was referred every time I see the baby smile.
‘I haven’t gone back to smoking because I just think about all the money I would be wasting.’
NINETY per cent of smokers start the habit before the age of 19.
That’s according to Portsmouth City Council, which launched a poster competition for secondary school children to stop younger people from taking up, or continuing the habit.
In Portsmouth 15.5 per cent of 14 to 15-year-olds said they smoke regularly – this is higher than the national average of 10 per cent.
It’s also higher in Hampshire, which said 12.2 per cent of people in the same age group admitted to smoking.
Andy Caldow, smoking prevention service worker for the council, said: ‘It’s imperative we educate young people about the danger of smoking.
‘They are more susceptible to the physical effects of smoking as their bodies are not yet fully developed – this includes increased risk of lung cancer, increased heart rate and risk of developing respiratory conditions.
‘About 90 per cent of smokers started before the age of 19, so it is key we prevent them starting before they progress into their adult years and start developing long-term health problems.
‘We work very closely with secondary schools and colleges in Portsmouth to educate pupils on the dangers of smoking.’
Pupils were invited to take part in a Stoptober poster competition.
Entrants had to design a poster that would appeal to young people and encourage them to take the 28-day challenge.
The winner was George Williams, who goes to the Harbour School, in Tipner.
The 14-year-old created the poster, which includes a fist crushing cigarettes.
He says: ‘My mum stopped smoking and that was good, and I wanted other people to think about if they should smoke.
‘I’m pleased to have won the competition and it was great to see my poster in the school.’
If you are a young person that has a question about smoking, the visit yousorted.co.uk or call (023) 9268 0274.
Support is available
HELP is there for people who want to quit smoking and get more information about support.
The NHS says that smoking remains the most preventable cause of illness and premature death in Portsmouth.
Solent NHS Trust runs PompeyQuit, which is a stop-smoking service for the city.
It said for last year’s Stoptober campaign – where the month of October is dedicated to encouraging people to quit – saw 3,292 people set a quit date, and 2,438 stop.
Manager Sian Howells said: ‘This is a fantastic achievement but we still have a way to go to reduce the burden of ill health and premature death caused by smoking in Portsmouth.
‘We have treated thousands of smokers and I’m amazed at the number of people who come to us with no confidence about quitting because they have often tried many times on their own.’
The service offers drop-in sessions and personal help to quit.
In Hampshire the stop-smoking service called Quit4Life is run by Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust.
Julia Robson, head of Quit4Life, said: ‘There are estimated to be 171,737 smokers in Hampshire and those who stop smoking for 28 days and longer will experience financial, physical and health benefits.’
Quit4Life runs weekly drop-in sessions at around 40 different venues across the county.
In addition, appointments are offered at more than 40 pharmacies and 60 GP surgeries.
To contact PompeyQuit, call (023) 9236 9234.
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