Ditching the habit

The gloomy data on the effects of smoking reiterates the importance of eye health messaging for the public


For some it’s sitting down to watch Star Wars. For others is setting off on a Caribbean cruise. For me, one experience that seems oh-so common to my friends and colleagues, but I am yet to have, is booking tickets for a certain Somerset music festival.

A child of the South West, Glastonbury was always ‘just down the road.’ And as teenager, I recall calculating that it comes around every year (at least it did in those days), so ‘what’s the rush, right?’ Fast forward 20 years, and while the appeal of the event remains, a part of me knows that my middle-aged body (and mind) might struggle to appreciate what has become the world’s largest greenfield festival, now attended by around 175,000 people. Gulp.

One thing I am not sad to have missed out on is a smoking habit. How and why we start to smoke is a complex question. What we do know, however, is that the effects of smoking make for gloomy reading. A look at NHS Digital's 2018 report Statistics on Smoking – England, for example, reports that 484,700 hospital admissions were attributable to smoking in 2016-17, and 77,900 deaths were attributable to smoking in 2016.

As of 2017, 14.9% of adults were classified as current smokers. This is down from 15.5% in 2016, and 19.8% in 2011, notes the NHS Digital’s report. Research suggests that action including the smoking ban on public places, introduced in July 2007, has been successful in reducing cigarette consumption among male heavy smokers, females and younger people, and is contributing to this long-run downward trend in smoking rates.

Despite this positive pattern, AOP members recognise that it’s important not to become complacent. This momentum needs to be maintained in order to encourage more smokers to quit and more young people to decline the first cigarette that is offered to them.

In OT July edition, the AOP PR and media manager, Serena Box writes that this year’s Voice of Optometry survey revealed the level to which optometrists want people to stop smoking.

“Practitioners ranked this as the single most important thing that the public can do to protect their eye health; in fact, the members taking part in our survey said this was even more important than having regular sight tests,” Serena explained.

Responding to this insight, the AOP’s lead PR campaign of 2019 is focusing on smoking and eye health. Launching next week, the campaign will include a national and regional media drive alongside outdoor advertising in areas where smoking remains particularly high.

AOP members can support the campaign by sharing the AOP’s digital assets, as well as talking to patients directly using the AOP’s new smoking and eye health leaflet. Look out for a member email about the campaign early next week, or find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Image credit: Getty/jaym-z