There's still over 85,000 of our fellow citizens dying a premature death every year from using tobacco. We shouldn't stigmatise smokers, we should help them. We need to stop patronising teenagers. We need to start listening to what they have to say. Hi, I'm Andy Friedlander. This is Change Incorporated. We're tackling some of the big issues that are affecting people across the UK. And today, it's this: "Quit Cigarettes" It's not just me talking about it, it's going to be here in London with our lovely panellists. They are Lynda Bennett, a smoking cessation expert. Dr. Garrett McGovern, a medical practitioner in Dublin, and there at the end, it's Kevin Barron MP, one of the architects of the smoking ban here in the UK, and a labour politician. So we're going to discuss and debate if the UK can be smoke-free by 2030. In terms of what's worked, did the smoking ban in 2007 dramatically reduce those figures? What other measures, have proved successful in this world? I think the whole area of looking at marketing of tobacco. You can't go in a shop now and see cigarettes on the shelf anymore, there'll be a door in front of them. I think that that's probably one of the areas that's done it. I think the smoking ban, for the first time... taught the passive smokers, the people who were in the room but didn't smoke, that there was a danger to them as well, it wasn't just about going home with smelly clothes from the pub. It was actually, that, the science came along and said: "This secondary smoking is harmful for your health as well." So it's beyond the individual choice then. Because you're then passing it on to others, and I think that that concentrated legislators' minds quite a lot, it's what motivated us to get the comprehensive ban on smoking. And you will talk to some people who don't want to go outside anymore, and then just stopped it themselves, and decided that, quite clearly, it was becoming, this area where everybody knew the dangers to it, not just to yourself, but to others as well. Lynda, can you just talk us through what the Lynda programme looks like. So Fred or Mary rock up and they say: "I've been addicted to cigarettes, "I don't want to be unhealthy, my kids may pick up passive smoke, "I recognise some of the issues." You will get someone come and book an appointment to see me, come in, then we discuss their smoking habits, where they smoke in the morning, the evening, where they smoke the most. Then decide, you know, how addicted they may be, and then what kind of replacement, nicotine or Champix, which is a drug, which might suit them better. So we have to work out which is best. And do you guys just tackle the nicotine? No, there's usually a story behind it, like their relatives have said: "Please stop smoking!" or they go: "This is costing me money." You know, there's also, for an example, there was one father who was estranged from his wife, and he wanted his child, to see his child, and she didn't like him smoking, so he gave up for that reason. There's always a back story to it. And so, roughly, how long is a course? Well, I ask for a commitment of once a week, to come see me for at least four weeks. We have the carbon monoxide monitors, which help people to see, that they're cutting down this in their breath. And to give them encouragement and inspiration. And then by the end of the four weeks, they should have quit. In my own private clinic, I've had next to nobody (nearly) come, specifically as a stand-alone to try and give up smoking. I tend to see them in the context of other addictions, whether it be cocaine, alcohol, opiates or something else. What I have found has been more successful than anything, and it's a little bit... I suppose it's the tobacco version of "rock bottom," which is a major health event... Usually, someone who can't breathe anymore... I've seen patients on, you know, home oxygen... And they're frightened, and their family are frightened. And it's horrible that they got to that stage, but they really just are so afraid that they really just don't smoke anymore. They're not able to smoke anymore. Another area was the lesser harmful products that people can buy, that they've voluntarily got onto. OK. But there's still a habitual nicotine consumption going on, albeit it in a different form, and I think, Garret, it's fair to say, deep research has not been carried out, to assess any harm. Is that correct at this point? Public Health England put their head up three years ago now, and said it is 95% safer, than smoking cigarettes. I believe them, you know. I've been involved in the anti-tobacco for two decades in this country now. And I believe that these products are an area that we need to move on. I would love if every single patient got off cigarettes by going cold turkey and not having to take anything, but sadly many people need some sort of help. You have to remember not everybody can do it the way you want them to do it. And if vaping is the way they can do it, let them vape. I already believe we may be seeing harm from vaping. We don't know what's in these liquids, and harm is still harm, even if it's less harm than cigarettes, it's still harm. I do accept there are certain groups, perhaps with more mental health problems, who find it difficult. But yeah, you can have vaping as a step change, with working towards cessation. Particularly in this country, we saw some of the stats, the one that stands out is how more-deprived areas have a greater occurrence of smoking. Is that fundamentally because, they haven't got any money? Is it because they're not getting an education? How do you guys assess? I work in these areas and they are very damaged communities. And their view would be: "So what if die young?" That's a horrendous thing to hear. The drug that will probably kill them and be responsible for their death may well be tobacco. It's very, very hard to quit a drug or stay quitted when you develop this sense of apathy. In other words: "It isn't worth giving up." And I think we need to change a lot of attitudes, but we need to help people. This is an issue where there is 25%, if you look at smoking cessation services, and the money that's spent on them, it's far less than where there's some really big successes. What we don't do is direct the money and the channels into areas where we know because of social economic classes, that people use cigarettes more than they do in other parts. We know it's a serious issue, but it doesn't really get the sort of gravity that it deserves. There's still over 85,000 of our fellow citizens dying a premature death every year from using tobacco. And it's not acceptable. If it was anything else, if we were at war with a country, and we're losing our fellow citizens like that, if it was food, a public health measure, we would take action. I've been saying this for decades in parliament. You know, when it was far higher than that, but, nonetheless, it's still there now. I wanted to revisit some of your personal stories. And then I'd like to talk about maybe rubbing the cigarette packet and seeing if the genie comes out and grants us three wishes to hit the 2030 target. Before we do, you talked about smoking at the beginning, and your experience, but you smoked and used to take them out of your dad's packet of cigarettes? -Is that right? -Yeah. So that was you as a young man. My mum asked me when I started, when I was about 11 or 12, but I was smart enough not to take them out if there was only two cigarettes in the packet. Otherwise you'd get collared? Because he'd know straight away, but if there's seven or eight in the packet, you could take one out and he wouldn't know. He could count, by the way, but... And you had a lovely line before we started filming, Garrett, you said you quit cigarettes at 13. Yeah, I gave up cigarettes at 13, I started, I think, at around 9 or 10. This is true. My old man said to me that, look, he caught me smoking once, me and my friend, squealed by my brother, as tends to be the case, and he said: "Son, if you don't give them up now, "you're going to be dependent on these things." and he was a doctor, so he gave me the kind of spiel... "You'll be in the hospital," and, you know, "You'll be coughing" and all that sort of stuff. And we had relatives who did have a real problem with cigarettes. I had an uncle, I think, who smoked 80 a day, and he was always in the hospital with pneumonia, and so even at 13 years of age, where, you know, around that time, none of us did anything sensibly. I knew that was true and it turned out to be true, and that was if you don't get hold of it in those teenage years, the likelihood is this thing is going to get you. And Lynda, we've spoken about your personal experiences, and you were nodding your head when Garrett was mentioning family issues. You lost a sister-- I said your symptoms are a red flag, you need to go and see your doctor. And then she told me she was diagnosed, and she got treated and I think she was hopeful. She was really hopeful that she'd get past it. And then she had a set back, and it wasn't working as well, so I think she gave up. And do you think it's quite common that experience? That people who have been... open to their own illness continue to smoke? I think they get some kind of comfort from smoking, even though it's the cause of, you know, their impending death. It's quite bizarre, it really is. We were discussing a moment ago there: "How do we stop young people starting?" And this is what the people of Britain think, we should be doing more of. Maybe if there was more clubs, or, like, more things that were available to us to do. Maybe we could do that instead. The banning of menthol cigarettes is a really good start. I think that flavouring probably is very easy to access for younger crowds. Say something about money. Like how much money that it's going to cost you. Save your money, go do something, instead of smoking. I think it's the older generation that need to try and get the message across. So which one of those stands out for you, as something we need to be doing more of? And if it's peer pressure or if it's financial incentives, how do we implement that on a community level, Lynda? Peer pressure, I think parents should take more responsibility with their own smoking and, therefore, passing it on to their kids... That boy on there said about more clubs, more things to do. Definitely, push the exercise and the health aspect, and provide those services. I firmly believe education is crucial, but we need to stop patronising teenagers. We need to start listening to what they have to say. Because, unfortunately, every single person that you see in that video, anyone who has become a smoker, they all started young. They all started bloody too young, and, as Kevin says, 21, we're not getting to these people at the right time. So if there was a bigger pot of money getting poured into your practice, and your practice Lynda. What would you do with that money? And how would you make a positive impact with that? This is government investment, let's say. Well, you could actually ring your list of patients, that's very time consuming, and it's almost like a selling thing. But I think, you have to have people come voluntarily to you. So make it visible. This is what we offer. Come to us, come and have a chat. Let's see if we can help you. More investment in stuff that moves away from smoking. In other words, where smoking isn't cool anymore. It isn't in keeping with, you know, activities that are healthy. I think there's far too many kids... I would say, probably throughout the western world, but we're talking about the UK here, there are far too many kids, and particularly, in those disadvantaged areas, that just have nothing to do. Unlimited resources, what would you action almost immediately, Kevin? I would look at smoking cessation mostly, no disrespect at all, but on a much wider scale, that people know that it's there... And we should be doing that now, in my view. We need to talk to the vape shops, we need to say: "Well, how is it, what you do in here in this community, "with this culture, with this socio-economic background, "how is it what you do in here that's getting "these people who are on 20, possibly 30 cigs a day, off onto vaping?" We need to... the evidence must be around in some form. Now it's not being measured nationally, but it must be around in some form. This was one of the successes that got us to the lowest figures of adult smokers that we've ever had since we started taking record. A lot of clinicians will have to have a different view about these things. Well, vaping is just a different way of delivering nicotine, isn't it? But much safer than the cigarette. We shouldn't really be pushing the word safe with vaping. We should be, maybe using it as an interim step, but pushing it completely out of the way in the end. Public Health England said, years ago now: "95% safer than cigarettes." I've been on a few-- They can say what they like. I know, but look, Lynda, I genuinely thought, if somebody said to me: "Are young people in this country "vaping and getting onto tobacco?" And this was, I was at my party conference last week... I did this fringe meeting about vaping, right? I said: "If they were, if there's any evidence of that, "I wouldn't be sat here." What we're going to do is wrap up by looking ahead to 2030. I don't know if we can be smoke-free, but, as we summon the genie, who is going to grant three wishes, starting with you, Kevin, what would your wish be to try and hit that smoke-free UK by 2030? Probably money from tobacco companies on the polluter pays principle. But not just dropped into the Treasury, as it is now, and making sure that that flows down to what you're doing. A way of funding smoking cessation programmes. You know, 2030, I doubt we're going to get Britain completely tobacco-free. There's going to be people, I mean, are they going to be the pariah? You know, the 2% or the 1% in 2030? You know, is it going to be driven underground? Is it going to happen that sales are so low that will drive it underground, and those people will have to go to dealers and stuff like that? I mean, where's this all going? Thank you. Lynda, inhale, breathe in and blow some optimism and positivity into this room. 2030 can the UK be smoke-free? Even if it gets nearer, what do we need to do? I don't know if it can be smoke-free, but what we could do is enhance the services we have, provide services in places we don't have them. Include children in these services, and advertise the hell out of it. Look, this is what we've got. Quit Cigarettes was the topic. A big thank you to Lynda, to Garrett, to Kevin. Really appreciate your views and your insight. My name is Andy Friedlander. We'll see you on the next one.


Will the UK be Smoke-Free by 2030? Panellists Discuss

This is a sample from our ‘Quit Cigarettes’ mission, which is currently live in the UK. Our goal is to increase the amount of people in the UK who quit cigarettes. Read more about our first mission here.

Will the UK be smoke-free by 2030? We brought together experts Lynda Bennett, a smoking cessation professional, Dr Garrett McGovern, a medical practitioner and Kevin Barron MP, one of the architects of the smoking ban, to discuss.