Killer secondhand smoke campaign flares up in the UK

According to new research by the National Health Service (NHS), 60 per cent of smokers light up and smoke without asking for permission, despite the fact that most non-smokers mind if other people are smoking nearby.

The NHS 'Don't Give Up Giving Up' campaign, launched this week, is comprised of advertising aimed at raising awareness of the health risks of secondhand smoke to adults.

A poll has shown that 21 per cent of non-smokers still don't feel comfortable asking somebody not to smoke near them or in their own home, and this is despite the fact that continued exposure to secondhand smoke puts non-smokers at a 24 per cent increased risk of lung cancer and a 25 per cent increased risk of heart disease.

The new adverts highlight the fact that 'Secondhand smoke is a killer' and also demonstrate that exposure to secondhand smoke makes breathing problems worse for asthma sufferers.

This will the first time an anti-smoking campaign has addressed the issue of secondhand smoke in relation to adults, and within a home environment.

According to a recent report, 95 per cent of estimated deaths from secondhand smoke are due to exposure in the home.

Previous NHS campaigns have addressed the issue of smoking around children, and helped to raise awareness of the fact that it can be harmful for children to be in a room where somebody has recently smoked, even if the room does not appear to be smoky, as 85 per cent of smoke is invisible and odourless.

Public Health Minister Caroline Flint says that it is clear that both smokers and non-smokers fail to appreciate the full dangers of secondhand smoke.

Apparently tobacco smoke contains around 4,000 different chemicals, including more than 50 known cancer-causing substances, such as arsenic, formaldehyde and ammonia, and by ignoring these facts and smoking around others they are putting them at serious risk of increased disease.

She says the campaign is designed to show that it's often the places we feel safest that put us at the greatest risk, such as relaxing at home in front of the television.

Flint hopes the campaign will give smokers an excellent reason to quit smoking and to protect their families, friends and colleagues.

Television adverts promise to illustrate quite graphically, in family settings, the invasive nature of cigarette smoke.

It will carry the message that secondhand smoke can restrict the oxygen around your heart, and increases your family's chance of getting heart disease by 25 per cent.

Christine Owens, head of tobacco control,with the charity the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation says the message couldn't be clearer - secondhand smoke is a killer.

The charity says that each year in the UK, secondhand smoke in the home is estimated to account for thousands of deaths, and is a proven cause of both lung cancer and heart disease.

It is estimated that more than 2000 lung cancer deaths can be attributed to exposure to secondhand smoke.

Smokers finding it impossible to quit are advised to keep their home smoke-free by smoking outside wherever possible; protect children by keeping their playing, sleeping and eating areas totally smoke free, and not smoke in the car.

The advice to non-smokers is to ask visitors to smoke outside; don't let anyone smoke in the car, and keep children's playing, eating and sleeping areas smoke free.

In the UK there are 170 free local NHS Stop Smoking Services throughout the country.

Smokers meet with their advisers, either individually or as part of a group, for an hour or two each week for around seven weeks.

They are still smoking when they start the course, and typically spend the first two sessions preparing to give up in the third week.

Advisers can also provide Nicotine Replacement Therapy and bupropion (Zyban) on prescription.

Of those clients who set a quit date during the period April 2004 to March 2005, 297,828 had successfully quit at the 4 week follow up stage; this compares with 204,876 in the same period in 2004 - an increase of 45 per cent.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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