Northern Ireland’s leading health charity, Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke has called on the Department of Health to review the actions it is taking to combat smoking.
“Much has been achieved but sadly the numbers of smokers in Northern Ireland remains stubbornly high – particularly in the less well off parts of Northern Ireland. Nearly one in four of the population in NI smokes and that rate has barely fallen in recent years.”
Commented Neil Johnston, Public Affairs Adviser for the charity.
He was speaking after it was revealed that the number of people accessing smoking cessation services has plummeted.
“The number using the services and setting a quit date has fallen from 39,000 in 2011 to just 18,000 this year – however during the same period the use of e- cigarettes has increased enormously so it may be that smokers are simply using a different route to try to break their addiction.”
“The fall off in use of cessation services is almost entirely in the 18-34 age bracket and it is probably these people who have decided to try e-cigarettes.”
Mr Johnston went on to point out that to date there was no conclusive evidence that e –cigarettes were an effective way to quit smoking and little is known about the long term health effects.
“We recognise people are keen to give up smoking but we would point out that e –cigarettes contain nicotine and are highly addictive and we would recommend that they are used only as a short term measure.”
“One area of success has been with school children – the numbers smoking have fallen markedly. We should build on that success and we would urge the Department to increase the resources spent combating smoking amongst school children.”
“We know that over 80% of smokers start smoking in their teens and we know there is a particular problem in disadvantaged areas so perhaps shifting resources from cessation services towards increasing targeted prevention activity in schools and disadvantaged communities would be more effective?”