Reaching smokers where they live
The next steps in the journey towards the government’s vision of a smokefree generation
A new report published on Tuesday by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH report 2018) launched at a joint event in parliament between the APPG on Healthy Homes and Buildings and the APPG on Smoking and Health, calls for action to address smoking closer to where people live.
The report, Smoking in the home; new solutions for the smokefree generation, sets out how an innovative focus on smoking in the home could provide important new routes for smokers to quit and help protect children and non-smokers from exposure to secondhand smoke.
In doing so, this could help to realise the government’s vision of a smokefree generation set out in the 2017 Tobacco Control Plan for England.
Smoking prevalent in the rented sector
Smoking is now highly concentrated in some communities, particularly the rented sector.
The report finds that smoking is twice as common in social housing than in other tenures (Office of National Statistics, Opinion and Lifestyle Survey 2017). The report also found that people living in social housing are less likely to successfully quit despite trying as often as other smokers [Smith et al].
High levels of smoking in poorer communities reduces the likelihood that smokers living in those communities will successfully quit, increases the likelihood that children will be exposed to smoke in the home and that they will take up smoking themselves. As a result, smoking-related illness is much more common among both adults and children in these communities.
This report was developed in collaboration with health, housing and academic experts, informed by tenant focus groups and is backed by 35 organisations. It looks across all types of housing to identify practical actions to reduce smoking in the home. It does not call for a ban on smoking in the home but rather calls for greater engagement of housing and health professionals in the communities that need the most support. The report calls for action to achieve:
- Local and national leadership to reduce rates of smoking in the home
- Media campaigns and local health promotion to support smokefree homes messaging
- Smoking cessation support in communities with the highest rates of smoking
- The delivery of brief advice across sectors, particularly the housing sector
- Tobacco harm reduction methods embedded into smokefree homes support
- Promotion of the financial gains from stopping smoking
- Specific action for vulnerable groups of tenants
- A standardised approach to fire safety to reduce smoking in the home
- Improved compliance and enforcement of existing legislation and increased support for neighbours exposed to smoke drift
- Engagement with tenants about the issue of smoking
- Inclusion of measures to reduce smoking as part of new housing developments
- Protection of workers from exposure to smoke in the home
- Greater collaboration to tackle the sale of illicit tobacco in domestic settings
Lee Sugden, chief executive of Salix Homes and co-chair of the report, said: ‘People living in social housing are twice as likely to smoke as anyone else, so as a social landlord, we have an important role to play in supporting our tenants to lead a healthier lifestyle, whether that be initiatives like providing vaping starter kits, or signposting them to the right support services.
‘This is not about a ban on smoking in homes; this is about raising awareness of the significant health inequalities of those living in some communities and recognising how we as landlords can help and support people to quit the habit.’
Salix Homes has also been involved in a successful pilot project with public health in Salford. The pilot has seen over a thousand tenants provided with access to free e-cigarette starter kits and additional support to help them quit.
At the end of the project, 63% had quit smoking and the stop smoking services had seen four times as many people accessing support and five times as many people successfully quit.
Supporting smokers to quit
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said: ‘This report does not call for a blanket ban on smoking in the home. It is focused on increasing the support to smokers where they live and raising awareness around the role many more professionals could play in tackling entrenched and high rates of smoking in some of our poorest communities.’
2. Office of National Statistics, Opinion and Lifestyle Survey 2017, 2018 https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/drugusealcoholandsmoking/datasets/supplementarydatatables
Smoking rates vary between housing tenure:
- 35% of residents in social housing smoke
- 25% of residents in private rented housing smoke
- 11% of residents in owner occupied housing smoke
3. Smith C, Jackson SE, Cheeseman H, West R, Brown J. Finding smoking hotspots: a cross sectional survey of smoking patterns by housing tenure in England. Addiction. In revision.
Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. For more information see: www.ash.org.uk/about-ash
ASH receives funding for its programme of work from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.