Efforts to reduce prevalence of smoking in the borough are coming up short, reports James Cracknell
Enfield has fallen far behind most of the rest of the country in its efforts to reduce the prevalence of smoking, research shows.
In 2019 the government set out a target to achieve ‘smoke-free’ status by 2030, but based on current quit rates, Enfield borough is not meet expected to meet the target for another 800 years.
The smoke-free target would be considered to have been met if all smokers had either quit or switched to other lower-risk forms of smoking, such as e-cigarettes or vaping.
Using the latest data from Public Health England, research by retailer Vape Club shows that 97% of areas in England will miss the 2030 target, with just four out of 135 local authority areas on track to meet it. This would lead to more than £130billion extra being spent on smoking-related health services.
In Enfield, the current smoking rate is 15.8%, and only 0.31% of these smokers are successfully quitting each year, providing a smoke-free year of 2816 when combined with take-up rates.
This is the second-worst local end date for smoking in the country, behind only Havering in East London, which is due to meet the target in 2983. In England as a whole 13.9% of people are smokers, with a quit rate of 1.89%, giving an expected smoke-free year of 2051.
The smoke-free by 2030 target includes an ultimatum for the industry to make smoked tobacco obsolete. It was set out by health secretary Matt Hancock to combat one of the biggest factors in people’s ill-health, as well a major cause of inequality.
A recent Public Health England report found that “using a vaping product as part of a quit attempt in local stop smoking services had some of the highest quit success rates – between 59.7% and 74% in 2019 and 2020”.
Dan Marchant, owner of Vape Club and founding member of the UK Vaping Industry Association, said: “In order to have a chance of meeting the ‘smoke-free by 2030’ government target, it’s so important that smokers are correctly advised with accurate information about the available routes to quitting smoking, including the huge harm reduction benefits of vaping.
“More than half of UK smokers wrongly believe that vaping is as dangerous as smoking, and this has a massive negative impact on quit rates, resulting in more people continuing to smoke – a habit that kills over 78,000 people in the UK annually.”
Dr Zirva Khan, a GP and expert on smoking, said: “Unfortunately because of the pandemic, many healthy lifestyle changes people had started to make, including smoking cessation, abruptly came to a halt.
“I have seen many of my patients take up unhealthy habits again like smoking as a way of coping with the stresses they have had to face.
“Education needs to be holistic, and not just focused on the health benefits, but social and financial advantages too. Another big issue to tackle is that smoking cessation services need to be accessible.
“Services have become centralised and there is no incentive for people, employers or organisations to tackle smoking cessation. Smoking cessation services ideally should also be trained to signpost people who access them to other relevant services to tackle the underlying reason of why they are smoking.
“For some it is indeed a choice, for many others it’s their escape from their difficulties.”
Enfield Council, which is responsible for public health in the borough, declined to comment.