New analysis, published by Cancer Research UK, has revealed that the most deprived 10% of the population in England won’t be smokefree until after 2050.
That’s 20 years behind the Government’s 2030 smokefree target for England.
In England, Scotland and Wales, governments have set out ‘smokefree’ targets – defined as less than 5% of the adult population smoking.
While smoking rates continue to decline in England, this trend has slowed down. And even more so for some people than others. If this trend continues, the data projects that the least deprived communities in England could be smokefree by 2024 while the most deprived communities are falling behind on this target by almost 30 years.
“There are nearly twice as many cancer cases caused by smoking in the poorest areas compared to the wealthiest in England,” says Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive.
“Cigarettes are designed to be addictive, and these most deprived groups will not be smokefree without robust funding behind stop smoking services and public health campaigns. This will take investment, and it’s the tobacco industry – not the taxpayer – who should be made to foot the bill.”
No person left behind
Some people, including those in deprived areas, are more likely to smoke and find it harder to stop.
This is likely due to a number of factors, including social, housing and income pressures that can make it harder to quit, as well as unequal access to stop smoking services in certain areas.
Historically, marketing by the tobacco industry has also been targeted towards some groups more than others.
All of these factors mean that people living in more deprived areas are more likely to be around people who smoke, and have family members who smoke, which can mean they are more likely to smoke themselves.
“It’s pretty clear that deprivation is linked to taking up substances, like cigarettes which leads to a lifelong addiction,” says Elizabeth Bailey, Campaigns ambassador for Smokefree UK.
“Where my family and I grew up, nearly everybody smoked. My father was an engineer and started smoking in his early teens, my Uncle died of lung cancer in the 1970s – it was just considered normal.”
The evidence shows that most people who smoke want to stop. But people need the tools and support to succeed.
Numerous opportunities to take bold action to end smoking have been missed by the UK Government. Budgets for stop smoking services have been repeatedly cut and the access to these services vary greatly across the country.