TODAY IS NATIONAL No Smoking Day – and the Irish Heart Foundation is calling on the State to start spending more on helping people quit smoking.
It said that the State spends 100 times more on tobacco-related illnesses than quit services, and that this needs to change.
IHF Head of Advocacy, Chris Macey, said that by putting more resources into quit services, the Government could significantly reduce the daily toll of 14 deaths from tobacco-related illness and the rate of 36,000 smokers who are admitted to hospital each year with tobacco related illness, whilst also saving money on a huge scale.
Currently, tobacco-related illnesses cost the State up to €2 billion a year – €2,000 for every smoker in Ireland. However, the IHF estimates that less than €15 million euro is spent on helping Ireland’s one million smokers to quit. That’s €15 per person.
The vast majority of this money goes towards medications. Macey told TheJournal.ie:
We’re not that sure why there is a disparity. The effect is the impact of smoking on health is absolutely massive. If you take it in context, smoking kills more than the next six biggest causes of preventable deaths put together.
He described it as a “health catastrophe on an enormous scale” that is costing a lot of money.
The system is waiting until after the health crisis for the individual happens before it deals with the problem. It is dealing with it too far down the road. All we are saying is some of that spending should be moved forward and if you do that you can save lives on a big scale. The point is smoking cessation services at least double the chances of a person quitting.
According to Macey, most smokers want to quit, but people need support. He said that smoking cessation services around the ocuntry are “patchy”, being good in some places but poor or non-existent in others.
“What we want is to try and urge the Government to develop standardised services to treat this as a frontline issue,” said Macey.
The suspicion we have is spending on things like smoking cessation is one of the first things to go when cutbacks are made. What we need is we need a recognition of that. We need it to have the same protection that frontline services have.
Macey said that GPs and other health professionals could have a bigger impact on smoking cessation in Ireland, and that money needs to be spent in this area. He said that the system for smoking cessation, which is delivered through hospitals by the HSE, needs to be developed and the network needs to be stronger.
There is also a big role for advertising, and the IHF would like to see more money spent in this area.
If you are thinking about quitting, the National Quitline is run by the HSE and the Irish Cancer Society, at 1850 201 203. The website www.quit.ie also contains information on how to quit and where to access support during this time.