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The Smoking World

By Meghan Harper, on 10 June 2010

There are many reasons that people start smoking, even though the health risks and the struggle to quit are well documented. Even President Barack Obama has struggled to quit. So how can one quit for good?

Tobacco kills 5.4 people world wide, making it the strongest heath risk in the world, but nearly all of these deaths are preventable. With 1 in 5 English adults as smokers, UCL professor Robert West has a potentially huge group of people to help quit. However, for most quitting is hard, and even after once one has decided to quit, research shows following through may be even more difficult. There are approximately 9,400,000 smokers in England, 3,489,000 will attempt to stop smoking and of those, only 174,4500 will succeed.

West also offers a lot of hope to those who are seriously looking to quit. Evidence shows that the most successful way to quit is to use some of the support that the NHS offers in forms of nicotine replacement therapies, pharmaceuticals, or simply using group or one-on-one support. ┬áThe issue is constantly keeping the motivation not to smoke, such a heath reminders and working to develop an identity as an ‘ex-smoker’ above the motivation to smoke. And the younger one can successfully quit, the better. After the age of 30, every attempt to quit will take 3 months out of every year off your life.

However, the discussion regarding the use of tobacco cannot simply be seen as a heath issue according to Ok Panneborg, former Chief Health Advisor of the World Bank Group. It is also a matter of agriculture, economics, finance and trade. The issue of tobacco usage is global, and usage is up among many developing countries. A number of global actors are fighting to decrease usage including World Health Organization, the World Bank, CDC, the White House, and the Bloomberg Company.

I thought that this lecture was particularly good, well presented and full of interesting information. It stressed to me what a complex issue quitting smoking is, for both the individual and from the bigger picture of agriculture, economics and trade. The audience discussion included participation from both people who identified and smokers, and those who didn’t, and I thought that Professor West’s insistence on helping smokers, not demonizing them was especially important. It definitely gave me a lot to consider about the issue as well as giving me tools that I can share with those I know who are trying to quit smoking.

To find out more information about quitting, please visit the following website: NHS Smoke Free

Professor Robert West on smoking

By James Kay, on 10 June 2010

Robert WestRobert West is professor of health psychology and works at the Health Behaviour Research Centre within UCL Epidemiology and Public Health.

He is taking part in the festival to talk about the choices smokers make, nicotine dependence and effective treatments available on the NHS.

In this podcast he explains how ‘nicotine hunger’ tests the resolve of even the most strong-willed smokers and drives more than 95% back to smoking after each quit attempt.