Still much more to do on reducing smoking and vaping, says Bradshaw

Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has said that a NI Audit Office report on the impact of smoking on public health and public finances shows that a lot of progress has been made, but that there is a lot is still to do on reducing smoking, including with regard to vaping.

The South Belfast MLA has said: “The report shows significant progress in reducing smoking prevalence in Northern Ireland, much in line with the rest of the UK. What it also shows, however, is a significant divide now in smoking rates in most deprived areas and elsewhere, and thus in health outcomes as a consequence.

“2200 deaths in Northern Ireland are attributable to smoking every year, but we also see smoking rates in deprived areas rising to double the overall average, with lung cancer deaths over 150% higher and pregnant women four times likelier to smoke. The long-term consequences of this for health and well-being are well-established.

“The report also raises the significant concern around the rise in prevalence of vaping, with 9% of young adults having picked up the habit. Vaping should only be used as a means to stop smoking; it should not in itself be encouraged as little is known about the long-term health effects.

“A restored Assembly could make further interventions to discourage smoking and ensure improved long-term health outcomes as a consequence, particularly by targeting programmes towards deprived areas. It is also essential, as the report notes, that enforcement functions effectively - breaching rules is not a victimless crime. There remains significant work to do.”