As the results of the latest Lucid Talk poll are released, we at Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke (NICHS) are delighted to see that 69% of respondents were in favour of a smoking ban in Northern Ireland.
NI Chest Heart and Stroke welcomes any new policy that aims to prevent and reduce smoking in the population and we were vocal in our support of British Prime Minister Sunak’s announcement last month that the UK government was committed to introduce a new law to raise the smoking age by a year each year in England which was confirmed in The King’s Speech today. However, it is disappointing that this new law will not increase the age of sale for vapes too and it is not as comprehensive as the smoking restrictions introduced in NZ in 2022. Their laws also reduced the number of stores legally allowed to sell cigarettes to a tenth of their existing levels – from 6,000 to just 600 nationwide.
The Prime Ministers announcement was, nevertheless, a step in the right direction to tackle smoking and it will, in effect, stop children who turn 14 this year or younger from ever legally being sold cigarettes in England and it will ultimately improve overall public health there, the sad reality is that a similar law has not been proposed in Northern Ireland and until we get reinstatement of the Assembly, there can be no progress made!
Yet smoking is the single most significant cause of preventable illness and premature death in Northern Ireland, killing around 2,300 people yearly and robbing 10 –15 years of healthy life on average.
In 2021-22, 17% of adults reported "currently" smoking. However, smoking continues to be the biggest driver of health inequalities in NI, with the prevalence of adult cigarette smoking in the most deprived areas (27%) compared to (10%) with more people developing smoking related heart and lung diseases.
In addition, 21%, or one fifth, of our young people have used e-cigarettes, and it's on the increase, with 6% of year 12s vaping in 2016, rising to 17% in 2022. And there is some evidence to suggest that kids who vape will start smoking.
NICHS Policy and Engagement Officer, Eugene Reid, stated, “Our policies are very clear; we want to see the age at which individuals can purchase cigarettes or e-cigarettes increased to 21years, an increase of a year, every year, to the age at which individuals can purchase these products. We also want to see a restriction on colours and flavours used in vapes and a total ban on sale of disposable vapes. There needs to an increase on the enforcement of restrictions on sale of these products including restrictions on where they can be sold and much tougher fines for those retailers who break the law. But we need the NI assembly back up and running for any new policy, strategy, or legislation to be introduced in NI, or our kids, public health and health service will continue to suffer and be left behind which is completely unacceptable. 7 in 10 ten respondents to a poll want to see smoking banned here, we will continue to do everything in our power to make sure our local policy makers are committed to moving towards that outcome”