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Okay, Sean Penn smokes - as seen here last month in Berlin - but it's not big and it's not clever, right? PA Images/Markys Schreiber

Almost 4 in 5 Irish smokers want to kick the habit

European survey finds that Ireland’s smokers are second only to Luxembourg in their desire to quit – but that tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the country.

IRELAND’S SMOKERS WANT to kick the cigarette habit more than nearly every other European state.

According to research commissioned by Pfizer in the Europe Quitting: Progress and Pathways report, Ireland is second of 20 European countries for the number of smokers who want to quit. Only Luxembourg smokers were more vocal than the Irish in their wish to stop smoking. Seventy nine per cent of those Irish smokers surveyed said they wanted to stop.

The survey was pretty comprehensive with 20,010 smokers and 22, 683 non-smokers questioned in the 20 countries which included Ireland, the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and others.

Some other sobering findings from the report, conducted by InSites Consulting last month, were:

  • Half of non-smokers and a quarter of smokers think that smoking leads to absenteeism in the workplace;
  • The average percentile of smokers in Europe who wish they could stop smoking is 67 per cent (Ireland is at 79 per cent, Luxembourg is at 83 per cent);
  • 73  per cent of non-smokers and 59 per cent of smokers in Ireland believe the Government should invest more in reducing the number of people smoking, rather than in just treating the health problems that result from the habit;
  • 92 per cent of healthcare professionals surveyed in Ireland also believe the Government should improve support infrastructure to help people quit smoking.

According to the Office of Tobacco Control, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in Ireland – the Department of Health says that around 7,000 people die from smoking-related disease in Ireland every year.

Dr Terry O’Connor, President of the Irish Thoracic Society, said that his medical experience led him to believe that we need a national educational programme for healthcare professionals on aiding people to stop smoking. He said:

The HSE Tobacco Control Framework highlighted the need to develop national tobacco cessation training standards for healthcare professionals so that those working in smoking cessation are trained to the highest possible standards.

The health promotion manager of tobacco control at the Irish Cancer Society, Norma Cronin, was consulted for the Pfizer report. She said that young people in particular should be targeted with education and motivation-to-quit programmes. She said:

It is important that the Government and the HSE set targets so that we can bring down the numbers of people smoking to 20 per cent by 2020.

The report has made a number of recommendations for Ireland:

  1. Re-align current smoking cessation services under one central, national body;
  2. Increase reimbursement for smoking cessation medications;
  3. Provide national recognised evidence-based educational programmes on smoking cessation for all healthcare professionals;
  4. Implement actions identified in the new national guidance;
  5. Sustained education for the general public.

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