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« PHE chief declares war on smokers | Main | Listen to the "incredibly informative director of Forest"! »

Public Health England chief vows to get "ruthless" on smoking

What do Philip Morris and Public Health England have in common?

They're both targeting 2030 as the year England will be 'smoke free' (sic).

Their definition of 'smoke free' is a strange one because it actually corresponds to a smoking prevalence of five per cent.

As the IEA's Mark Littlewood said at an event hosted by Philip Morris earlier this year (and I paraphrase), no-one would say Britain is 'heroin free' yet the number of people who use that drug is far less than five per cent of the population.

Moreover, five per cent of an adult population of 40 million is two million, so PHE (and Philip Morris) intend to declare England 'smoke free' when there are still two million people smoking. Really?

Anyway, PHE's chief executive Duncan Selbie has once again been making noises.

According to one report published today, Selbie says the NHS long term plan, which is due to be published in November, must have a “really big” prevention ambition'.

The same report notes that:

In a statement released today, PHE said prioritising smoking cessation, cardiovascular disease and obesity in the long term plan will have a huge impact.

It said this could lead to reducing smoking prevalence to less than five per cent by 2030, and halving childhood obesity and the number of avoidable deaths from cardiovascular disease.

If you want to know what that means, Selbie has posted an article – 'Prevention and the NHS long term plan: 3 ways we can save more lives' – on PHE's Public Health Matters blog:

Smoking [he writes] remains England’s biggest killer and ends the life of 200 people every day. Our prevalence rates are at an all-time low at just under 15% but this belies huge variation, such as in affluent Epsom and Ewell, where rates are at 4.9%, but just 60 miles away on the south coast in Hastings the rate is more than five times greater at 25.7%. We also see big variation particularly in people in manual work and those who suffer with mental health problems. Our prisons are now largely smokefree but it can be harder to smoke outside a railway station or pub than it can outside a hospital, and this is not okay.

Smoking is the single biggest modifiable risk factor that impacts on infant mortality and morbidity, causing up to 2,200 premature births, 5,000 miscarriages & 300 perinatal deaths per year. Almost 11% of women in England are still recorded as smoking at the time of delivery, which translates into over 65,000 infants born to smoking mothers each year. We need to take action and support women to increase the number having a smoke free pregnancy, including implementing the actions set out in the Government Tobacco Control Plan in respect of pregnant women and of the Maternity Transformation Programme.

Our ambition to remove smoking from England will only be achieved by the concerted efforts of everyone, but it can be done, and the NHS could be a more powerful driving force by actively nudging patients and its own staff onto cessation programmes, treating smoking addiction as a medical condition and taking an absolutely zero tolerant approach to smoking on the NHS estate.

All of this and more will play out through the long term plan and this time we must be more literal about the priority that we are giving to prevention. We need less rhetoric and more action. We need to be ruthless in our priority setting and ruthless in our implementation.

Interestingly, and despite PHE's declared support for e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool, vaping doesn't get a single mention.

Selbie's contempt for smokers is all too obvious however.

Of course, if he achieves his ambition to make England 'smoke free' by 2030 (he won't), expect to see a new NHS plan featuring a "zero tolerant approach to vaping on the NHS estate" allied to the "need to be ruthless in our priority setting and ruthless in our implementation" of anti-vaping policies.

We probably won't have to wait that long because I predict that public health campaigners – even those that are currently advocating e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool – will turn on vaping the moment there are more vapers than smokers.

I'd bet my house on it, if my wife would let me. (She won't.)

Update: Here is Forest's response to PHE's statement:

Prioritising smoking cessation is an "attack on choice and personal responsibility"

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Reader Comments (3)

2030 - the year smokers are bullied into a tiny enough minority to be criminalised. That is what smokerphobics like Selbie really mean when they say "smoke free". Where else can the decade long hate campaign end up?

The intentions to move on to the overweight is clearly next and then perhaps, in time using the same dehumanisation and demonisation methodology evidenced against smokers, will result in penalties for fat people based upon each pound over state approved body mass they are reported to be by medics who have no choice but to do so.

The healthist nutjobs vision of my grandchildren's future is not utopia but a terrifying dystopia that will drive the poor and those who need help most underground while encouraging judgementalism, intolerance, and the worst of human characteristics in the wider general public.

Vapers, of course are on the list but only after they have been used to exclude and marginalise smokers enough to be the next safe and easy target to boot out of society. Watch as scare stories on vaping become more intense as the years rumble on towards 2030.

My other thought on the announcement is that until Selbie's statement, I thought the NHS belonged to all of us and not just Public Health and non smokers. It is for everyone, smokers included, and not just because they pay far more in a lifetime for it than they will ever get back but because, like it or not, smokers are members of British society too and must be treated without prejudice like everyone else.

Thursday, September 6, 2018 at 18:38 | Unregistered Commenterpat nurse

Once again the 'public health' and tobacco control extremists display their intentions to persecute smokers and others that exert the right of free choice. This corrupt movement has little to do with actual health — recall the exaggerations and outright lies about passive smoking — and much to do with graft and persecution to further their totalitarian grip on society — and of course to garner profit and power.

Thursday, September 6, 2018 at 21:07 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

I'd certainly like to see his basis for that claim that 200 people die each day because of smoking.

What we do know is 40,000 people died within the NHS system because of errors made by its staff.

Maybe he should concentrate on matters closer to home.

Thursday, September 6, 2018 at 23:48 | Unregistered CommenterSmoking Scot

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