DH sets out plan to wipe out smoking and ease GP workload

Smokers made a third more GP appointments than non-smokers last year, the government said this week as it launched plans for a smoke-free generation that would reduce the burden on GP practices.

The government’s tobacco control plan, Towards a smoke-free generation, aims to cut smoking prevalence among a number of patient groups by 2022 - just five years from now.

Smokers visited their GP 35% more than non-smokers in 2015/16, adding 'a great burden' to an already-strained primary care system, the tobacco plan warned.

The report aims to lower smoking prevalence among adults from 15.5% to 12% and to reduce the number of 15-year-old smokers from 8% to below 3%, while reducing the inequality gap in smoking prevalence.

Smoking rate

Prevalence among adults has already fallen from 19.3% four years ago in 2012. The report also aims to cut prevalence of smoking during pregnancy from 10.5% to 6% or less.

The DH said it will have achieved its long-term aim for a smoke-free generation when prevalence stands at 5% or below.

All health professionals should have access to training to help patients quit smoking, it said in its action plan to help achieve these aims.

The BMA welcomed the report, which it said aligned with its goal to achieve a ‘tobacco-free society’ by 2035, less than 20 years from now.

Preventable ill health

BMA board of science chair Professor Parveen Kumar, said: ‘While smoking rates continue to decline, it is important we maintain our commitment to controlling the harm caused by tobacco.

‘While we are glad to see developing policy such as plain cigarette packaging and increased taxation on tobacco, it is still worrying that more than 200,000 children and young people take up smoking, the leading cause of preventable premature death and ill health in this country, each year.

‘If we’re to stop the 79,000 annual deaths in England attributed to smoking, smoking cessation services and tobacco control measures must be adequately funded yet local authorities are reducing stop-smoking budgets, merging services into unwieldy departments or cutting services altogether.

‘Cuts to these highly cost-effective services will only increase health inequalities and demand on tomorrow’s GP surgeries and hospital wards.’

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