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Record Numbers Of Smokers Kick Habit

Health bonus claimed from a year of restrictions

Caroline Davies – The Observer – Sunday June 29, 2008

The number of smokers successfully quitting has soared because of the smoking ban in England, which celebrates its first anniversary this week.

Research shows that almost 235,000 people managed to stub it out with help from the NHS in the nine months from April to December 2007 – a rise of 22 per cent on the year before. The figures, contained in a Department of Health report to be published next week, are being used as evidence that the ban on lighting up in enclosed public spaces has been a success.

In the foreword Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson writes: ‘The significance of the smoke-free laws cannot be underestimated. A significant reduction in second-hand smoke with its damaging health effects has been achieved. We expect many lives have been saved. Everyone has the right to enjoy the benefits of a cleaner, healthier environment.’

Fears that smokers would smoke more at home appear to be unrealised, with 67 per cent imposing a total ban, compared with 61 per cent before the ban, according to the Office for National Statistics, which also shows that 80 per cent of those polled believed the legislation banning smoking was a good thing.

‘That is a key finding,’ said Linda Bauld, from the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies. ‘Lots of people expected that if you stopped people smoking at work and in pubs and restaurants, they will smoke more at home. But there is no evidence of that,’ she said.

The British Lung Foundation yesterday claimed the ban was responsible for keeping people with breathing difficulties out of hospital and for saving lives. In a survey of more than 1,000 people with lung conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma, 56 per cent said they were now able to go out more without the risk of suffering attacks of breathlessness from passive smoking in pubs and restaurants.

‘People with lung conditions are often rushed to hospital with attacks of breathlessness, a terrifying experience which can result in death,’ said a spokesman for the charity. ‘In the past most people with a lung condition have been unable to enjoy a visit to the pub or restaurant because passive smoking could bring on an attack.’ Nearly two-fifths of those questioned said the ban had helped to keep them out of hospital.

Sue Matthews, 54, from Barking, east London, who suffers from COPD, said the ban had allowed her to live a more normal life. ‘Our Breathe Easy support group met in a pub this year – it was the first time we had ever been able to do that without worrying that we might be rushed to hospital fighting for breath,’ she said.

A reduction in the number of heart attacks is also expected as a result of the ban, though experts say it is too early to monitor the full impact in England. In Scotland, which introduced the ban in March 2006, nine major hospitals experienced a 13 per cent reduction in heart attack admissions in the following year.

‘I think we would expect to see a similar reduction in England in heart attack admissions,’ said Bauld. ‘For people who have a pre-existing heart condition, the response can be triggered by exposure to second-hand smoke.’

But the ban contributed to the closure of 1,409 pubs in 2007, compared with just 216 closing in 2006.

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