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EDITIONS
Smoking Monday, 25 January, 1999, 21:19 GMT
Health coalition begins anti-smoking crusade
The Smoking Control Network will offer a carrot approach to quitting smoking
Seven major health charities have banded together in a unique move to reduce smoking in the UK.

The seven are calling themselves the Smoking Control Network and their aim is to support government initiatives to cut smoking.

One of the main focuses is on promoting nicotine replacement therapy (NRT).

Health experts say willpower is often not enough for the estimated 70% of smokers who want to give up.

Research shows NRT doubles the chance of success.

Pharmacists are already noting a 20% rise in sales of NRT since the government published its White Paper on tobacco in December.

Quitline, a free national helpline which helps smokers to give up, say calls are up by 10% on this time last year.

And the NRT industry is doubling its investment in advertising this year.

Getting their act together

The five founding members of the network are the Cancer Research Campaign (CRC), the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (ICRF), the Stroke Association, the British Dental Association and the British Lung Foundation.

QUIT and the British Heart Foundation are observers and SmithKline Beecham, which manufactures one form of NRT, is supporting the network.

"It is high time we got our act together," said Professor Gordon McVie, director general of the CRC.

He added that he was "quite optimistic" that government targets on reducing smoking could be reached, saying they were "more achievable" than those proposed by the Conservatives.

But he warned that the tobacco industry would be trying to thwart the initiatives through clever marketing.

The Smoking Control Network wants to give more encouragement to smokers to give up, by supporting anti-smoking clinics and NRT prescription.

"We have used the stick in the past and we now want to offer more of a carrot approach," said a spokesman for the British Lung Foundation.

Disability and death

Scientists say half of long-term smokers will die of tobacco-related illness. Tobacco is responsible for some 120,000 deaths in the UK each year.

Lung cancer is now the leading cause of death for women under 70 who live in the North
The Stroke Association says many will be left disabled. Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the UK and smoking significantly increases the risk of suffering a stroke.

People who have high blood pressure who smoke are 14 times more likely to suffer a stroke, said Margaret Goose, chief executive of the association.

Professor McVie warned that lung cancer in women was increasing in the North and the trend was moving southwards.

He said lung cancer was now the major cause of death in women under 70 in Scotland and the north of England, replacing breast cancer.

Although smoking has fallen among the middle-aged and elderly in the UK since the 1960s, it has increased significantly among the young in recent years.

Professor McVie said tobacco companies were targeting the young and were adding products like cocoa to cigarette to make them taste nicer for first-time smokers.

Attractiveness

John Hunt of the British Dental Association said dentists would be focusing on persuading young people that smoking caused gum disease and led to premature tooth loss.

He said they were more likely to respond to an approach which emphasised losing your looks than on information about future health risks.

Research shows people who do not try smoking before they are 20 are very unlikely to take it up in later years.

The Smoking Control Network's first initiatives will look at:

  • Encouraging MPs to support the White Paper on Tobacco in Parliament and in their constituencies;
  • Producing a joint leaflet for the public on the risks of smoking and how to give up;
  • Lobbying for the European Union to force tobacco companies to include advice on quitting smoking on cigarettes packets sold in the EU.

Other joint initiatives will be developed in the future.

And organisations are looking to work more closely with the government.

For example, the ICRF wants to get government sponsorship for an anti-smoking clinic it is opening in London in four to six months.

It will eventually be able to provide information on which forms of NRT are most popular with patients.

Kevin Barron, MP, who chairs the All Party Group on on Smoking and Health, said he had visited Rotherham last week to launch an anti-smoking initiative for the local health authority.

The area has a higher than average death rate from coronary heart disease. A three-year project in Thurcroft will aim to reduce smoking and encourage people to eat a healthier diet.

A similar project in Wath which ended a year ago managed to reduce smoking by 6.9%.

See also:

25 Jan 99 | Anaheim 99
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