According to new estimates from Cancer Research UK, smoking is responsible for almost twice as many cancer cases in lower-income groups than in higher-income groups.
Over 11,000 cancer cases have been linked to smoking in the lowest income group compared to about 6,000 in the highest.
Decades of dazzling packaging and marketing by the tobacco industry and targeting groups at risk have brought us here…. [but] Public health and prevention services play a vital role in tackling these health inequalities.
– Professor Linda Bauld, Public Health Expert
Withdrawal and smoking
Cancer Research UK estimates that more than 27,000 cancer cases per year in England are linked to poverty or deprivation.
People living in more deprived areas smoke 2.5 times more often than those in the least deprived areas and find it harder to quit, which contributes to large health inequalities.
Experts believe this is likely due to a mix of factors, such as: B. exposure to cigarettes, the direction of the tobacco industry, housing and income pressures, access to health and social care, information and education.
The study found that of the 27,000 cancers caused by deprivation in England each year, around 5,500 could have been prevented if smoking inequalities were eliminated and smoking rates were the same for everyone.
Public health expert Professor Linda Bauld believes that public health services have a vital role to play in tackling this blatant inequality.
“It’s not about just telling people to stop smoking – becoming a cold turkey doesn’t work for everyone. People who smoke shouldn’t be blamed, they need support and the right tools to quit smoking. “
She said: “Smoking has caused more deaths than COVID-19 in the past year. Public health and prevention services play a vital role in tackling health inequalities and improving health and wellbeing across England. This has come even more into focus since the pandemic, which showed where investments in these services have fallen behind. “
Smoking has long been the largest preventable cause of cancer and death worldwide and is known to cause at least 15 different cancers, not just lung cancer.
The government has set a goal of making England smoke free by 2030, but there is a clear socio-economic divide that needs to be addressed. The most disadvantaged groups will not achieve this goal until the mid-2040s, while the least disadvantaged groups are expected to achieve it in 2025.
Even so, funding for smoking cessation services, which provide smokers with the best chances to quit, has been continually cut, and public health campaigns that encourage people to quit have been cut.
Cancer Research UK’s executive director Michelle Mitchell believes this needs to be addressed. “Funds for tobacco control measures in England have been cut significantly in recent years, which if not urgently reversed, will undermine the government’s goal for smoke-free 2030.”
“Fund without interference”
Just last week, Philip Morris International, the maker of Malboro cigarettes, announced plans to stop selling cigarettes in the UK over the next 10 years and expand into the healthcare sector.
In response, Mitchell said, “We have heard these empty promises from the tobacco industry before and are concerned that this move is part of an attempt by Big Tobacco to position itself as part of the smoke-free UK solution while continuing to work here and around the world advertise and sell deadly cigarettes.
“We know from our work in helping low- and middle-income countries fight tobacco industry interference that Philip Morris’ global actions are inconsistent with their rhetoric for a smoke-free world.”
Mitchell called for more efforts to convince people not to smoke, but said that the tobacco industry should be encouraged to contribute to the cost.
The charity believes a smoke-free fund could be a solution – getting the tobacco companies to pay for the cost of the damage caused by smoking, but without their involvement in using the money – would be a much-needed new source of funding for tobacco control, to help people quit smoking.
It would also mean that more of the public health budget would be devoted to other important areas of public health and would significantly reduce the cost of smoking-related illnesses for the NHS in the future.
“It is very worrying that smoking is causing more cancer cases in less fortunate groups. The upcoming tobacco control plan for England is an important opportunity for the government to address smoking rates and long-standing, unacceptable health inequalities across the country, ”said Mitchell.
“However, this can only be achieved if sufficient additional investments are made in tobacco control. A smoke-free fund – with funds from the tobacco industry but without industry interference – could finance the extensive measures needed to reduce smoking rates in all socio-economic groups. “