Three leading charities have joined forces to urge Welsh Government to set a target for eradicating smoking in Wales.
Plans for a tobacco end game target should form part of Welsh Government’s new Tobacco Control Plan, according to ASH Wales, Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation (BHF) Cymru.
They are calling on Welsh Government to set a target similar to that set in England where there are plans to reduce smoking to 5% of the population by 2030, and Scotland which aims to become a tobacco-free nation by 2034.
So far Welsh Government is just 1% off its current target to reduce smoking prevalence to 16% of the population by 2020 with 17% of Welsh adults now smoking. Now the time has come, say ASH Wales, Cancer Research UK and the BHF, to finish off the job.
Speaking ahead of the Cross Party Group on Smoking and Health at the Senedd where AMs will discuss the Tobacco Control Plan, ASH Wales CEO Suzanne Cass, said:
“We have come such a long way in reducing smoking prevalence across Wales and now we have an opportunity to close the chapter on it completely.
“Ultimately we are working towards a smoke-free Wales as this is the only way to address the devastating health inequalities caused by this terrible addiction.
“Smoking remains the biggest cause of early preventable death in the country, yet it continues to be taken up by 30 young people in Wales every day.
“We are calling on Welsh Government to set an end game target that will focus efforts on providing cessation support to the remaining 467,000 smokers in Wales and preventing young people from taking up the habit.”
Adam Fletcher is head of BHF Cymru. He said:
“It’s crucial that Wales doesn’t become the only part of the UK which doesn’t set a clear target to end smoking. Around 1,000 heart and circulatory disease deaths in Wales are attributed to smoking each year.
“Making Wales smoke free will help reduce health inequalities and we would welcome a commitment from Welsh Government to achieve this by 2030.”
Andy Glyde, Public Affairs Manager for Cancer Research UK, said he believes steps that could be taken to meet the target could include more support for hospital patients that smoke and a campaign to raise awareness of stop smoking services.
“Smoking is the biggest preventable cause of cancer in Wales so an ambition for a smoke free Wales is a crucial step towards better public health.
“There’s been good progress in reducing smoking in recent years and we know that people who receive support through services like Help Me Quit are more likely to be successful.
“This is why continued investment in these services is essential. More could also be done to alert people to the support available and so a mass marketing campaign would be helpful.
“To accelerate progress, new approaches also need to be considered, such as offering support to hospital patients who smoke.”
Across Wales 467,000 adults currently smoke with prevalence in the most deprived areas, at 21% compared to 13% in the least deprived.
Among teenagers 9% of 15 to 16-year-olds smoke, a figure that has remained unchanged since 2013/14, with 30 young people taking up the habit every day.
Smoking costs the Welsh economy £790.66 million a year and leaves the NHS with an annual bill of £302 million.
John Griffiths, AM for Newport East, is chair of the Cross Party Group on Smoking and Health:
“Smoking is still the biggest cause of preventable mortality and health inequality in Wales. It is vitally important that community-based actions at grass roots levels have the financial support they need to effectively help people quit cigarettes for good.
Following the targets set by UK Government to end smoking in England by 2030, Welsh Government have an opportunity to achieve a smoke-free Wales and by setting a target date, would be able to incorporate these ambitious and achievable aims as part of the next Tobacco Control Plan for Wales.
“I look forward to continuing to work alongside ASH Wales Cymru and members of the CPG on Smoking to seek robust action points we can take to Welsh Government to help improve smoking cessation and make Wales a smoke-free country.”
The Smoking and Health Cross Party Group takes place on Tuesday November 26.