State must invest more to help smokers kick the habit

By June Shannon Policy News   |   6th Mar 2019

The cost of smoking to the State is 140 times more than the amount it spends on helping smokers to quit.

Smokers who want to kick the habit are being treated unfairly by the State’s under investment in support services to help them quit, the Irish Heart Foundation has stated.

Speaking today on National No Smoking Day (Ash Wednesday 06 March) Irish Heart Foundation Head of Advocacy, Mr Chris Macey, said nowhere near enough was being done to help the estimated 80 per cent of smokers in Ireland who wanted to quit.

According to the Irish Heart Foundation, the cost of smoking to the State is 140 times more than the amount it spends on helping smokers to quit.

It stated that in 2017 more than €11.8 million was spent on smoking cessation measures including medications, smoking cessation services, the national Quitline and mass media campaigns, compared to an estimated annual cost of smoking to the State totalling €1,653 million.

Although the majority of Irish smokers want to quit, the amount spent on cessation services is less than 1 per cent of the almost €1,400 million they handed over in tobacco tax in 2017, the Irish Heart Foundation added.

In 2017 more than €11.8 million was spent on smoking cessation measures compared to an estimated annual cost of smoking to the State of €1,653 million.

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Mr Macey said, “Tax increases have played an important role in reducing smoking rates in Ireland but could be even more effective if a higher proportion of the proceeds was spent on cessation services. It isn’t fair to place a large additional tax burden on people because of their addiction to nicotine and then fail to invest properly in helping them overcome it when many are desperate to quit.

By putting more resources into smoking cessation services, the State could help many more smokers quit and thereby reduce the toll of 16 deaths every day from tobacco-related illness in Ireland and the rate of 31,500 smokers who are admitted to hospital each year with tobacco-related illness, whilst also saving money on a huge scale.

“The tragic reality is that one in every two smokers in Ireland will die of a tobacco-related disease. Smoking doubles a person’s chances of having a stroke and almost trebles their chances of having a heart attack. A single cigarette contains over 4,000 chemicals meaning that every time a smoker inhales, they are sucking in dangerous chemicals that are used in car batteries, rocket fuel and even rat poison.”

Mr Macey also highlighted the economic case for greater investment in quit services: “It makes absolutely no sense that rather than helping smokers to quit, it’s only after they have a stroke, a heart attack, develop cancer or another serious illness that the State becomes involved in assisting them.

"Quitting smoking is the single most important thing anyone can do to protect their health and heart,"

Mr Chris Macey, Head of Advocacy , Irish Heart Foundation

“There is conclusive evidence that ad campaigns and support services, such as cessation clinics, quit lines and medications can significantly increase a smoker’s motivation to quit and then their chances of kicking the habit for good.

“With our hospitals in crisis and tobacco-related illness also accounting for over 116,000 hospital outpatient appointments, 38,000 emergency department attendances and 19,000 hospital day case appointments, the case for our quit services could hardly be clearer,”

The HSE estimates that approximately four out of every 10 smokers make a quit attempt every year and about one third who try are successful on the first attempt, although more don’t make it through the first week.

“Everyone who has tried to quit smoking knows how difficult it is. Nicotine is a highly addictive product and smokers should not be left to fight their addiction alone,” added Mr Macey.

“But the health dividend for those who do manage to quit couldn’t be greater. Quitting smoking is the single most important thing anyone can do to protect their health and heart. Once you stop smoking, the impact is almost immediate as blood pressure and pulse rate return to normal after only 20 minutes. After eight hours, a person’s oxygen level in the blood returns to normal and the chance of suffering a heart attack begins to fall.”

Stopping smoking is the single most important step you can take to live longer and it greatly reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke. For information and support about kicking the habit please see our quit smoking page.

 

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Ash Wednesday heart disease National no smoking day quit smoking smoking stroke Tips to help quit smoking tobacco

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