Pregnant women should be given 'financial incentives' to quit smoking

PREGNANT women should be given financial incentives to quit smoking, doctors have suggested.

Smokers who want to quit are currently offered help by the NHS to kick their habit.

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) said that an opt-out system could double the uptake of the service.

It said the health service should provide "opt-out smoking cessation services to all smokers at any point of contact with the NHS", while pregnant women should be given financial incentives to quit.

It's not clear what these financial incentives should be, but the group said that many people who smoke are often from "lower socio-economic groups".

The RCP has now compiled a report in order to address what can be done to tackle smoking after it said the government's "smoke free" target of 2030 won't actually be achievable until 2050.

The report said: "The ability of the UK and other countries to rise to major public health challenges is beyond doubt; the Covid-19 pandemic, by far the biggest new challenge to UK and global health in decades, has attracted a public health and economic response of a scale unique in the modern era.

"Yet in 2020, when Covid-19 killed around 80,000 UK citizens, tobacco smoking killed 94,000."


It comes after the government’s Chief Medical Officer warned fags are still more deadly than the virus which brought the world to a standstill.

In a lecture at London’s Gresham College yesterday he said: “Smoking is gradually drifting down over time, but it is still a very major cause of mortality.

“The standard estimate is that it causes over 90,000 deaths every year.

“So this year and last year, it is likely more people will have died of smoking-related disease than Covid.”

As part of the RCP report, measures such as above inflation tax were suggested – in order to make smoking less affordable.

This it added should be run alongside other measures such as e-cigarettes and nicotine replacement therapy.

It also suggested that media campaigns be reinstalled to the tune of £23 million and that the tobacco industry should be excluded from policymaking.

It also suggested that representatives from the tobacco industry should not be allowed to meet government officials.

The RCP said a lobbying register should be set up to disclose the funding sources of individuals or organisations lobbying Government on tobacco control, and a tax on tobacco companies introduced to fund independent tobacco control research.

The 5 tips you need to know to help you quit smoking

Think of the money: The coronavirus pandemic has created a financial burden for many people and smoking is an expensive habit to have.

Calculate how much you spend on smoking each day, then work out what you spend a month and then what you spend on smoking in a year.

Get help: The key thing to remember here is that you don't have to go it alone when it comes to stubbing out cigarettes.

You can always ask your GP or pharmacist to help and they will be able to advise you on the best course of action to take.

Consider a replacement: Guidance from the NHS states: "Cigarettes are addictive, and self-control alone might not be enough for you to stop entirely.

"Give yourself a better chance of success by using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). This is available on prescription from your GP, from your local stop smoking service or from a pharmacist. 

"You could also consider trying e-cigarettes. While they're not risk-free, they are much safer than cigarettes and can help people stop smoking."

Join a support group: The NHS says that speaking to others in the same position as you can help you quit.

The NHS says your're four times more likely to quit smoking if you have the help of your local support group.

Prepare mentally: Last year over 300,000 Brits quite smoking amid coronavirus fears.

If you want to quit you're not alone.

Smoking is a powerful addictive drug which is why it's hard to give it up.

Professor John Britton, RCP tobacco advisory group member said that smoking is entirely preventable.

He added: "But ending smoking requires us to go even further with the more familiar prevention measures, such as tax and providing help for smokers to quit, but also tackling some of the causes that have not yet been addressed – and particularly the exposure of children to tobacco imagery in film, television and other media.

"Doing this will prevent countless deaths, dramatically reduce the burden placed by tobacco use on health services and wider society, substantially reduce inequalities in health and, by alleviating poverty and improving health, contribute significantly to the levelling up of our society."

In the UK, in 2019, 14.1 per cent of people aged 18 and over smoked cigarettes, which equates to around 6.9 million people.

Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body. It causes lung cancer, respiratory disease and heart disease and is implicated in other cancers, including lip, mouth, throat, bladder, kidney, stomach, liver and cervix.

Professor Jon Bennett, chairman of the British Thoracic Society said that whenever a patient is admitted to hospital there is "a golden opportunity to help and support them quitting smoking for good".

He explained: "Referrals to on-site smoking cessation services must become the norm for all patients who smoke, and these services should have as a minimum, dedicated leadership, smoking cessation training for staff and access to a comprehensive range of pharmacotherapy and nicotine replacement products.

"But we also agree with the RCP that these measures won't be enough alone, so it's good to see recommendations covering taxation and smoke-free legislation.

"The largest proportion of smokers come from disadvantaged or lower socio-economic groups, causing deep health inequalities.

"So we welcome the focus on initiatives that do not discriminate but support these groups to quit and reduce the number of new smokers."

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