Smoking is the biggest preventable cause of morbidity and premature death in developed countries. It has been linked to may chronic diseases including respiratory, cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Nicotine, the addictive substance found in tobacco, is the primary reason people still smoke despite the clear dangers. Over twenty years ago, the Department of Health embarked on the first comprehensive NHS Stop Smoking Services to help people quit. This included a network of specialist smoking cessation services offering medicine and behavioural support. These services have been found to be very effective and have shown to increase the number of successful quit attempts and sustained abstinence. Smokers who use such services are three times as likely to quit successfully compared to those trying to quit unaided. However, the uptake of smokers using such services has remained low (<5%) and are sadly in decline.
Understanding the willingness of smokers to access help is a vital first step to improve service uptake. In a recent article published in the Journal of Public Health, this issue is explored further. The research entitled “Understanding willingness to access and experiences of NHS Stop Smoking Services: a qualitative systematic review with meta-aggregation synthesis”, sought to review the literature and summarise the findings. It is hoped this would then inform stakeholders and support policymaker recommendations.
The research found that people’s willingness to access NHS support is complex. Access and willingness to use NHS services were found to be related to an individual’s readiness to perceive that smoking is a problem, their ability to seek a perceived effective treatment, to conveniently reach services, their perceptions around associated costs and how the services engage individuals.
The research suggested that strategies to promote uptake should include making services more attractive, relevant and responsive to individual perceptions around smoking and health. There is a high prevalence of smoking in less affluent and ethnic minority groups. The authors concluded that the “importance of having a comprehensive and inclusive tobacco control policy, one that is linguistically and culturally sensitive, cannot be overstated”.
Strategies to quit smoking
If you’re a smoker, consider giving it up. As well as the health benefits – think of the money you will save! From a religious perspective, because smoking causes harm, smoking is forbidden. Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Whoever purposely throws himself from a mountain and kills himself, will be in the (Hell) Fire falling down into it and abiding therein perpetually forever; and whoever drinks poison and kills himself with it, he will be carrying his poison in his hand and drinking it in the (Hell) Fire wherein he will abide eternally forever; and whoever kills himself with an iron weapon, will be carrying that weapon in his hand and stabbing his `Abdomen with it in the (Hell) Fire wherein he will abide eternally forever. Sahih al-Bukhari.
Accessing help if you are considering quitting is important. You don’t have to do this alone. You can start by speaking to your local pharmacist about how best you can be supported. There is a range of smoking cessation products available and these can be free from NHS stop smoking support advisers. More information is available on the NHS website. Choosing a quit date can help. Quitting after the blessed month of Ramadan is a good opportunity. You have already proven to yourself you can abstain for long periods. The key message is don’t give up giving up!
Further discussion and Fatwa on smoking can be found here.