Smoking and health inequalities
Research into smoking and health inequalities has been used to inform the Department of Health's health inequality strategy and status report.
Damage to health caused by smoking does not discriminate between class or wealth. When it comes to the health of the nation, smoking is the leading cause of inequalities in the UK. Accounting for half of the difference in life expectancy between the most and least affluent groups, it was recognised that services helping people to stop smoking needed to reach poorer smokers and improve quit rates. Professor Linda Bauld and her team from the Tobacco Control Research Group worked with the University of Edinburgh to look at smoking and health inequalities. This work is commissioned by the Department of Health and the European Commission. Their findings have been used to inform the Department of Health's health inequality strategy and status report. This research is cited in the Health Select Committee’s review of policies to address inequalities.
They found that of 1.5 million smokers supported by NHS stop smoking services between 2003 and 2006, it was those from poorer areas who were more likely to be using these and successfully quitting, than those from more affluent communities. This study demonstrated how the NHS stop smoking services are actually helping to reduce inequalities in health caused by smoking.
“We have very limited evidence about which public health interventions can help reduce inequalities," says Professor Bauld. "An exception is smoking cessation services in the UK, as our study demonstrated. The success of these is good news for the overall health of the nation.”
Their findings have also been summarised in a recent report from ASH on the next 10 years in tobacco control titled 'Beyond Smoking Kills'. Work on smoking cessation and inequalities is now being taken forward as part of Bath’s involvement in the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies.
The UKCTCS grant from the UK Clinical Research Collaboration has funded a research fellow based at Bath. This research currently explores the reasons why poorer smokers find it more difficult to quit and what types of smoking cessation interventions are best suited to their needs.
- To assess the extent to which NHS smoking cessation services were reaching smokers in deprived areas
- To explore whether these services are effective in supporting smokers from deprived areas to quit
- To determine whether these services are contributing to reducing inequalities in health caused by smoking.