Organisations across Solihull and Birmingham today welcomed the publication of the Khan Independent Review into Smokefree 2030 policies and support the review’s four key recommendations:
- Urgently invest £125 million per year in a wide-ranging Smokefree 2030 programme. Options to fund this include a ‘polluter pays’ levy.
- Raise the age of sale of tobacco by one year every year.
- Offer vaping as a substitute for smoking, alongside accurate information on the benefits of switching, including to healthcare professionals.
- For the NHS to prioritise further action to stop people from smoking, by providing support and treatment across all of its services, including primary care.
In 2019 the Government pledged to make England smoke free and since then there has been significant progress in reducing smoking across the West Midlands.
However, despite this much needed progress, in the 1,053 days following this announcement the West Midlands has seen:
- Around 35,500 people die from smoking related illness
- 37,825 children start smoking
- Approx. £4.85bn spent on tobacco
In Birmingham and Solihull, around 10,200 people are admitted to hospital as result of smoking each year, with 4,000 deaths as result of smoking from 2017-19.
There is an appetite for things to change, with 75% of people in the region backing the Government’s ambition to reduce the amount of people smoking to less than 5% by 2030.
Public Health experts welcomed proposals to increase the age of sale. Most smokers start as children and two thirds of those trying just one cigarette go on to become addicted smokers, risking a lifetime of addiction and premature death, disease, and disability.
Raising the age for buying tobacco products worked in those US states which raised the age of sale up to 21, resulting in a 30% reduction in 18–20-year-olds taking up smoking.
Services in Birmingham are offered through community pharmacy and primary care, and the local NHS maternity system is embedding the pilot programme of tailored support for parents who smoke in pregnancy into mainstream practice.
Evidence clearly shows that interventions can support people to successfully quit when supported and this is especially important when it comes to health, whether it’s planning for parenthood or preparing for surgery, giving up smoking really improves the outcome.
The review’s recommendations on vaping were also supported by regional organisations. It was recognised that vaping could be an effective tool for smokers trying to quit, but this would need to be implemented alongside effective and stringent regulations to keep them out of the hands of children.
Councillor Tony Dicicco, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health at Solihull Council, commented:
“I welcome the recommendations by Dr Javed Khan about introducing bigger and bolder measures to make smoking obsolete by 2030. It is the most important way we can help to level up the health and wealth of the residents I and other elected members serve. I will be speaking to Solihull’s MP’s to urge the government to make the necessary legislative changes.
“Alongside this, I have the honour of chairing the Birmingham and Solihull Tobacco Control Network which goes live this month. This will see leadership from the NHS, local authorities, education, and the business community come together to help reduce the economic and health impacts of smoking.
“There is no single way to making smoking obsolete, but local authorities and health organisations across the region can all play a part, whether this is by getting illegal tobacco off the streets, helping people to quit in pregnancy or through dedicated support to help people quit being provided by local councils such as Solihull and the NHS.”
Dr Justin Varney, Director of Public Health Birmingham City Council said,
“Tackling this and getting smoking rates down is essential for levelling up in both health and wealth. Smoking rates are twice as high in more deprived communities, and this has a huge impact on health inequalities. We welcome the review’s call for significant and immediate investment to help us to do more, faster to reduce the unacceptable impact of smoking on people’s lives and reduce the costs of smoking to the NHS and wider society”.
Councillor Mariam Khan, Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care and Chair of Birmingham Health and Wellbeing Board, said,
“Every step taken towards eradicating smoking will have a massive impact on tackling wider health inequalities. In Birmingham and Solihull, we are already undertaking significant pieces of work on this agenda together and I encourage the government to be bold and commit to act on the recommendations made by Dr Khan.”
Dr Clara Day, Chief Medical Officer of NHS Birmingham and Solihull, said: “Every day we see the devastating impact of smoking on the health of our citizens. We hear from smokers that they wish they had never started: the measures in the review would be a huge step forward to make the damage from tobacco a thing of the past.”