Smoking is the single greatest cause of preventable illness, premature death and health inequality throughout Northern Ireland, with approximately 2,300 people dying prematurely each year from smoking-related illnesses such as coronary heart disease, stroke and many cancers.
Every year on 31 May, the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners mark World No Tobacco Day (WNTD), highlighting the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocating for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption. For WNTD 2014, WHO is calling on countries to raise taxes on tobacco.
Gerry Bleakney, Strategic Lead for Tobacco Control with the Public Health Agency (PHA), said: “Reducing smoking prevalence is one of the biggest challenges we face in public health, so the PHA is working hard to tackle this issue in Northern Ireland to help save lives.”
Although raising taxes is outside the remit of the Northern Ireland Assembly, the PHA is supportive of any UK government moves to increase tax on tobacco products.
Gerry added: “Raising tax is one of the most effective means for countering the tobacco epidemic, which kills six people every day in Northern Ireland.
“Within Northern Ireland preventing young people from taking up smoking and helping smokers to quit are top priorities in the Tobacco Control Strategy. I would urge anyone who is thinking about quitting smoking to get help from the wide range of services available.
“We know that motivation and support is vital for every smoker who wants to quit. The PHA commissions a range of Stop Smoking Services across Northern Ireland in hospitals, community pharmacies, GP surgeries, community centres and workplaces. The PHA’s ‘Want 2 Stop’ website is packed with information and useful tips to stop smoking and the Smokers’ Helpline offers information and support to smokers interested in quitting.”
The ‘Want 2 Stop’ website is at www.want2stop.info and the Smokers’ Helpline is available on 0808 812 8008, where you can get advice and order a ‘Quit Kit’ free of charge.
Notes to the editor
1. The World Health Organization promotes World No Tobacco Day on 31 May each year. For World No Tobacco Day 2014, WHO and partners are calling on countries to raise taxes on tobacco.
Specific goals of the 2014 campaign are that:
- governments increase taxes on tobacco to levels that reduce tobacco consumption;
- individuals and civil society organizations encourage their governments to increase taxes on tobacco to levels that reduce consumption.
3. For more information on World No Tobacco Day 2014 see http://www.who.int/tobacco/wntd/en/
4. The PHA will be the lead implementation organisation for the new 10 year Tobacco Control Strategy, which was launched on the 28 February 2012. The strategy aims to: to reduce the numbers of people in Northern Ireland taking up smoking; to encourage more smokers here to quit; and to afford greater protection for the whole population from tobacco-related harm.