Employers in Wales must to do more to help staff quit smoking, as major campaign launches to reduce smoking rates in Wales

Every employer in Wales must promote quit smoking support if the Welsh Government’s target of reducing smoking rates from 23% to 16% by 2020 is to be achieved, according to ASH Wales.

The call comes as a new campaign – Quit for Wales - is launched today by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) in Wales ahead of the autumn rugby internationals.

The campaign will urge Wales’s 500,000 smokers to make a quit attempt and will call for more investment in smoking cessation services in the workplace, as well as more quit support for vulnerable groups such as pregnant women and people with mental health problems.

Nearly a quarter of people in Wales still smoke, including over 30% of those in routine and manual professions. Very few businesses in Wales offer smoking cessation support even though smoking severely impacts productivity through smoking breaks and workforce health.

Recent research by ASH Wales showed that £41m is lost every year to Welsh businesses through smoking breaks and a £49.5 m through excess sickness absence.

The Welsh Government wants to reduce smoking rates from the current 23% to 16% by 2020 – that means 25,000 people quitting every year in Wales - and that’s without anyone else starting to smoke.

The campaign, which will run for six months, will call for:

  • Every workplace in Wales to promote flexible quit smoking support to their employees. Over 30% of routine and manual workers currently smoke, a much higher percentage than the overall average.
  • All midwives and health visitors in Wales to be educated on smoking in pregnancy and receive brief intervention training as part of their pre-registration training. Currently 16% of pregnant women in Wales smoke throughout their pregnancy, the highest rate in the UK
  • All mental health providers to be trained in quit smoking support. In contrast to the decline in smoking prevalence in the general population in the last two decades, there has been little change in smoking prevalence among those with mental disorders in the same period

Elen de Lacy, Chief Executive of ASH Wales said:

“If we are going to reduce smoking prevalence in Wales and encourage more people to quit we have to invest in flexible and accessible services to ensure people get the right support. Workplaces in Wales have a vital role to play in bringing smoking rates down and can be supportive environments to quit, but employers need to give their staff the time and support to do it. We also need to ensure that professionals involved with vulnerable groups such as midwives and mental health service providers are trained to advise smokers, and signpost them to the right services.

“As part of our Quit for Wales campaign we’ll be asking people to pledge to quit via quitforwales.org and share their reasons why to help motivate others. We know that 70% of smokers want to quit so we need to be providing more support to help them do it.”

A leading company based in Wales that is actively promoting quit smoking support in the workplace is GoCompare.

Kath Denton, Head of Organisational Development at GoCompare said: “A smoking cessation group was one of the original health and wellbeing initiatives we set up and we continue to recognise the difficulties that our staff members face in trying to stop smoking. To help them we provide free non-smoking resources for staff such as patches, gum, information packs, signposting and a free copy of Allen Carr’s Stop Smoking book.

“In addition, two members of staff (both ex-smokers) attended brief intervention for smoking cessation training in May 2013. This means they are now in a position to really be able to help staff who want to give up smoking by talking them through the various models and techniques available to smokers and refer them to ‘Stop Smoking Wales’ where possible. We also encourage ex-smokers to buddy up with those who are trying to quit, to increase their chances of success and provide an understanding ear when they need it most.

We also participate in National No Smoking Days and promote this actively within the company.”

Dr Patricia Riordan, Director of Health and Healthcare Improvement at Public Health Wales, said:

“We welcome this new campaign as it provides another great opportunity for smokers who want to quit and to do so with plenty of support and help from services such as Stop Smoking Wales.

“The benefits of being smoke-free are immediate, whatever your age. Within weeks your breathing and circulation will improve and the risk of serious illness starts to reduce.

“Stop Smoking Wales offers free sessions for people across Wales and can provide valuable support to smokers who want to quit. Thousands of people contact the service every year, and with the help of Stop Smoking Wales you are four times more likely to quit.”