MP COLUMN: I cannot be blind to the risk and the damage done by smoking

Smoking is back on the agenda with a major report out on how to help people end their addiction.

By Mary Glindon, North Tyneside MP
Friday, 10th June 2022, 9:46 am
Mary Glindon, North Tyneside MP.
Mary Glindon, North Tyneside MP.

I’ve never myself been a smoker but have always respected those who want to do so. But I cannot be blind to the risk and the damage done by smoking to them and to the health service.

About six million people in England smoke. Tobacco continues to be the single biggest cause of avoidable illness and death.

People die from one of 15 types of cancer. About a quarter of cancer deaths are related to smoking.

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The most disadvantaged are more at risk. The report records that smoking is 4.5 times higher in Burnley than in Exeter.

It also records that the average smoker in the North East spends over 10% of their income on tobacco, compared to just over 6% in the South East.

The independent review into tobacco control led by Dr Javed Khan has recommended 15 interventions to give the government the best chance of meeting its national target to be smokefree by 2030.

It’s been backed by Cancer Research UK who I am in touch with on other issues.

I was happy, for instance, to ask a minister in Commons Questions this week to meet me and them to discuss the need to increase and improve clinical cancer research and trials.

I’m not so sure about raising the age of sale from 18 by 1 year every year, until eventually no one can buy a tobacco product. I welcome the increase in investment for stop smoking services and for more advice.

I’m particularly pleased that the report endorses the promotion of vapes as an effective ‘swap to stop’ tool to help people quit smoking.

I’ve been arguing this for some time. We shouldn’t make the perfect the enemy of the good.

Clearly not smoking anything is best. But vaping is relatively safer and a means to quit for many. If implemented this report will save lives.