At this time of the year, as I have done every year since I've been posting my weekly blog, I write about smoking, or rather about trying to get people to stop smoking. I make no apologies for using my blog in this way, I am passionate about trying to persuade smoker’s to stop. It’s the one best thing anyone can do to improve their health and wellbeing.
I was surprised last week to read that from the 10th November advertisers will be able to show electronic cigarettes in TV advertisements. There are 2.1m adults who currently use e-cigarettes in the UK. Of these 700.000 are ex tobacco smokers, but 1.3m people use both e-cigarettes and tobacco. The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has ruled that adverts must not: target the under 18 year old's or non-smokers; must not show tobacco 'in a positive light'; or claim e-cigarettes are 'safer' of 'healthier' than smoking tobacco. However, despite what have been some tenuous claims made for the public health benefits of e-cigarettes, I think there must be a risk that these adverts will re-normalise smoking. Advertising tobacco products is banned in the UK, and for good reasons.
Last week, those interesting folk over in the Office for National Statistics published their report on the Statistics of Smoking in England (2014). Despite its somewhat dry title, it is worth reading. Some of the key outcomes reported include: 20% of the adult population aged over the age of 16, are smokers, a slight decrease over the last decade. In the same time period the price of tobacco has increased by 80%. Encouragingly, the number of children aged 11 – 15 who have tried smoking has fallen from 42% in 2003 to 22% in 2013.
Whilst there has been a slight increase in the number of people getting a prescription from their GP to help them stop smoking, 1.8m last year compared to 1.6m in 2003 the cost of the medications prescribed (£48m this year) is down from the £66m in 2010 and £58 spent in 2012. There are other costs of course. There are 1.6m hospital admissions for adults aged 35 and over, where the primary diagnosis is of a disease that can be caused by smoking. Just under 500,000 hospital admissions however, are directly attributable to smoking. In 2013, one in six deaths (approximately 80,000) of adults aged 35 and over were caused by smoking.
When asked, 43% of all current smokers reported wanting to give up smoking. 75% had tried to give up at some point in the past. As I write this there are 257746 people signed up for Stoptober. This is a national campaign aimed at persuading and supporting smokers to give up for 28 days. The evidence suggests that if someone can stop smoking for 28 days they are 5 times more likely to stop for good. There's lots of free support, ideas, apps and so on to be found here.
I also make no apologies for the unashamed use of the word sex in the title. Experience has shown me that if I include the 'S' word in the blogs title I can get 5 or 6 times the readership, important when trying to reach as many people as possible – however, for any female readers of the blog, recent Italian research has shown that as well as been an aphrodisiac, eating one apple a day can improve the sex lives of women. And if you are interested in finding out more, you can read about it here.