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Leading local health charity welcomes decline in smoking but warns against vaping in the young

30 Nov 2023

Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke (NICHS) welcomes the latest set of statistics published this week by the Public Health Agency on behalf of the Department of Health.

The data shows there has been a decline in the number of people smoking over the last decade which is a commendable fact. Amongst the individuals surveyed, 14% are current smokers which is a decrease of 3% compared to the 2021/22 finding of 17%. However, a somewhat less satisfactory figure emerges when the statistics are broken down to highlight areas of high deprivation.

In the most deprived areas in Northern Ireland 24% of adults currently smoke. Although this is a decrease of 13% from the 37% figure ten years ago, this is still far too high. It highlights the need for better education, support and services for this demographic in order to reduce the totals. Health inequalities are a blight on our society, it is no secret that there is a reduction in life expectancy in these areas compared to more affluent areas and it is no longer acceptable.

NICHS’s policy on e-cigarettes has recently been updated in light of our recent campaign to expose the potential dangers of vaping and the significant increase in their use amongst young people. The figures published would endorse our concerns vis-à-vis the uptake amongst 16–34-year-olds. (This is currently 17%.)

Eugene Reid, Policy and Engagement Officer at NICHS, said; “If you smoke, vaping is a much safer option, and, in this case, vaping can be used to stop or reduce cigarette smoking, however, if you don’t smoke, don’t vape. The marketing of vapes to young people should be stopped immediately. We at Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke are concerned that vaping can lead to nicotine addiction, and we are worried about the medium to long term effects of vaping.”

“NICHS welcomes recent government moves in England to explore restricting the advertising of vapes to young people under 18, however, we believe considering the known dangers of tobacco, and the increasing concerns about vapes, the minimum age of purchase for tobacco and for vapes containing nicotine should be raised to 21. This would be a significant boost in the moves towards a smoke free society and would also provide leadership for schools seeking to arrest the spread of vaping amongst their pupils.”

“The journey to a smoke free society continues, and NICHS will do everything possible to ensure that it arrives sooner rather than later.”