Leading local health charity, Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke has called on the Health Minister, Michelle O’Neill to make a New Year’s Resolution on behalf of the NI Executive to re-double the efforts to help smokers quit.
“Sadly the number of smokers in Northern Ireland has remained at 22% – around 1 in 5 of the adult population. All of us, including government, need to re-assess our approach as it is clearly failing.”
Said Neil Johnston, Public Affairs Adviser for the NICHS.
“The NI Executive has the target of reducing smoking to 15% of the population by 2020 – a mere three years’ time – and yet in the past nine years the numbers smoking have barely fallen at all. Something needs to change”
NICHS pointed out that while smoking fell marked from 1 in 3 to 1 in 5 between the mid-1980s and the mid-2000s very little has changed since.
“We have made great strides on persuading people of the need to quit and measures such as the ban on smoking in pubs and workplaces were clearly significant. While it is to be hoped that the recently tightened retailing rules, the new ban on smoking in cars with children, and forthcoming move to plain packs, will help, we think is there more we can do to cut down on smoking”.
Neil Johnston argued that more work was required in promoting healthy lifestyles, especially amongst school children.
“We need to ensure that all primary school children are hearing about the need for a healthy diet, the need to be physically activity – and the need to stop smoking or, better still, to never start smoking.”
Mr Johnston maintains there is an important role for politicians.
“The Assembly agreed a target of cutting smoking to 15% by 2020 but often pass the buck by saying that the enforcement of the tougher rules on smoking is entirely a matter for the local Councils. Stormont needs to ensure that Councils have the adequate resources and are using them effectively. Equally importantly the Minister needs to support those who are helping get the message about smoking through to our kids.”