Saturday, 20 August 2011

Driving smoking down yet further in Scotland

First a graphic illustration (from Cancer Research UK):

Figure 6.2: Prevalence of cigarette smoking by age, Great Britain, 1974-2005

And an interview with Michael Matheson (Scottish Health Minister) (available 6 more days from today). Sheila Duffy also participates. The Minister is questioned about the failure of the Scottish Government to meet its smoking targets. Both the Minister and Sheila Duffy point out in the interview the dramatic fall in smoking rates that has occurred since 1999. The graph (UK-wide) shows that there has actually been very little change in smoking rates since 2005.

Unusually for a BBC Scotland interview presenter Colin Kelly (sitting in for Kaye Adamson on Call Kaye) challenged the Minister and a couple of callers on their approach to smoking. Colin's fear is that if the Minister pushes too hard there will be a backlash against the smoking ban, which he likes. He is concerned about  individual liberty – to an extent – as well as costs. At 24.50 minutes into the clip he asks the Minister whether the only people who now smoke are in deprived pockets of Scotland who require help in many different areas of their lives – Matheson replies that they have a 'range of measures in place to try and help people who do wish to give up smoking'! The only problem he recognises in smokers is that they smoke.

The next stages of Scottish smoking cessation strategy seems to aim at the smokers in Scotland's most deprived communities. If Matheson is anything to go by, they won't get much of his personal attention because he already knows that all their health problems are smoking-related.

A recent initiative to persuade people not to smoke got off to a quiet start in Arbroath last weekend, where just 30 people signed up. The Courier reports the failure rates of smoking cessation programmes in the area, and state that NHS Tayside had the lowest success rate at 33 per cent (not mentioning that this figure was likely to have been a success rate at four weeks – very far from being a confirmed success story).  Professionals know that cold turkey is a very common quit method. Professional intervention seems quite over-rated, especially by those that provide it. Even if the reporters on the Courier are not reporting the full story it's good that they point out some of the failures of the smoking cessation service.

More here: again this relates to the UK, but is relevant. Of the whole NHS smoking cessation activity Chris Holmes points out that the 'real' smoking cessation rate has been about 6 per cent over the last few years. He says this:

Ladies and gentlemen, this programme was started by the Blair government in 2001.  It has been running for a decade, and boasting roundabout 50% success rates all along, with hundreds of thousands of smokers being duped into taking part with scandalous misinformation about actual outcomes, and yet the number of smokers in the UK today is: “similar to previous years”!
It's hard to resist the conclusion that the smoking rate has flattened out, and that no amount of NHS service delivery will make any difference in the future.

Edit, 21 August: You can access a permanent link to the Matheson discussion here.


handymanphil said...

Not only have smoking rates flattened out, the 'great unwashed' are more privy to the truth via the internet than ever before. The days of fooling all of the people all of the time are now over as the truth is coming out-thick & fast!

Anonymous said...

The Minister for Public Health, Michael Mathieson, is a devious little sh**. He was on the Health and Sports Committee that would not even consider trials of radio-controlled vending machines created by the vending machine companies. So much for science based legislation by the Scottish Government.

Chris Holmes said...

Since I have been helping smokers quit with hypnotherapy since the year 2000, I can shed some light on this: during good times people get more positive in outlook and think more about the distant future, therefore more smokers feel motivated to quit, and are more likely to succeed, whatever method they choose. Since 1997 the number of people feeling positive and thinking/planning long-term has dropped considerably, so quitting decisions are put off, or the smoker is more hesitant. Add to that the common notion that smoking alleviates stress, and you have much of the explanation for the graph. Government interference accounts for the rest, as smokers don't like being told what to do! Not rocket science, is it?

Belinda said...

Recent economic reports suggest that the outlook for smoking cessation is bleak ...