The ban on smoking in indoor public places introduced a decade ago has resulted in a 20.8% fall in the number of people in England who have died from smoking-related heart disease, according to official figures.
The number of deaths from stroke associated with smoking has also fallen by 14.5% since the ban was introduced on 1 July 2007, the statistics from Public Health England (PHE) reveal.
Duncan Selbie, chief executive of PHE, described the landmark change in the law introduced by the then Labour government as “extraordinary”. But he said it was only one of 10 legislative moves which together have brought about a “huge” cultural change in attitudes towards smoking.
However he admitted: “The smoke-free legislation was undoubtedly the single most important public health reform in generations.”
According to PHE’s Local Tobacco Control Profiles network statistics, there were 32,548 deaths from heart disease attributable to smoking in 2007–2009. Between 2013 and 2015 that number fell to 25,777, a drop of 20.8%.
Between 2007 and 2009, some 9,743 smokers died from a stroke, but that number fell to 8,334 between 2013 and 2015, a drop of 14.5%.
The figures were welcomed by the anti-smoking lobby group, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), which said the numbers reflected both the impact of smoke-free legislation and the reduction in the number of people who choose to smoke.
“These latest PHE figures are very impressive but you have to remember that they are linked to the number of people who have stopped smoking as well as the reduction in people’s exposure to second-hand smoke. That collective impact is greater than we had anticipated,” said Hazel Cheeseman, director of policy at ASH.
ASH now wants the government to update the Tobacco Control Plan, which expired in 2015. “The current plan ran until 2015 and the government since then has continually promised to publish a new plan shortly — but we’ve been waiting two years.”
In the past decade, community pharmacists have increased the role they play in helping people give up smoking, with some achieving impressive results.
For example, 33 pharmacists delivering smoking cessation services in the Hywel Dda University Health Board district treated 249 smokers between April 2015 and March 2016. Of that number, 40% had quit the habit by September 2016.