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Smoking as a Health Problem Essay

According to recent statistics by the World Health Organization (WHO) (2010: 29), approximately 5.7 trillion cigarettes are used by more than a billion smokers globally (WHO, 2010: 29). However, the prevalence of smoking has declined compared to the past 10 years in developed countries. Despite the decline in its prevalence, smoking still remains a public health concern, not only in UK, but globally. This is due to the findings of studies in the UK which revealed that more than one point six million hospital admissions of people aged 35 years and above is due to cigarette smoking related illness. This constitutes four percent the hospital admissions of this age group in the country (Jones et al., 2014: 225).

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The recent WHO reports indicates that there are about six million deaths every year due to health care problems related to smoking; thus making it among the world leading causes of deaths. In addition, about six hundred thousand innocent individuals also die every year due to second hand smoke. Specifically, Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease, a respiratory disease highly associated with smoking has been found to take the highest prevalence (about 85%) of all hospitable respiratory conditions. Tobacco smoking is also associated with high risk of death from communicable diseases. In 2013 alone, about 78,200 deaths in the UK were linked to smoking, constituting approximately 17% mortality rate in adults aged 35 years and above. In the following year, 2014, Great Britain reported about 1.7 million hospital admissions for conditions related to tobacco smoking.

The above analyses indicate that conditions and ailments related to smoking is a burden to the national health sector of the countries in UK and thus create an additional expense to the National Health Service. The costs directly related to smoking comes from; general practitioners consultations, drugs prescriptions, policy implementations, anti-smoking campaigns, and other victim treatment methods. In 2006, the Britain government spent close to £2.7billion by the National Health Service of the country in curbing and tackling the effects of smoking (Jones et al., 2014: 226). This is inclusive of smoking-related hospital admissions, outpatient and general practitioner consultations, practice nurse consultations and drugs prescriptions. The burden imposed on the government as well as the health related issues affecting individuals who smoke and their families makes cigarette smoking is a big health care problem that should be addressed, thus forming the basis of this report.

Epidemiology and Demography

Studies by Jones et al., (2014: 229) indicate that men as are the main consumers of cigarettes globally compared to women. This result in men’s hospital admission attributed to smoking to be higher than that of women; 55% and 45% respectively. The 2013 Health statistics records reveal that one out of five adults above 16 years smokes in the UK; this is 19% of the total population. In 2014, 19% of adults in Great Britain were smokers who smoked an average of 11 cigarettes per day. The report shows that about 18% of all secondary school students have tried smoking at least once.

The number of the smoking jobless people was found to double those who were employed and smoking. Among the working, 30% were manual workers and only about 105 were managers and other professionals. Only 9% of those with formal education degrees smoked compared to the overall 19% (Jones et al., 2014: 228). Some pregnant mothers unfortunately, are also among the smoking group in UK; 12% of the total expectant mothers in England, for instance, are smokers

In 2013, adolescents between the age of 11 and 15 years were recorded to have attempted to smoke at least once while nearly a quarter of those aged between 16 and 34 are smokers in Great Britain. Only about 11% of those aged over 60 were found to smoke. The occasional smokers within this age group consumed approximately 3-4 cigarettes weekly and the regular smokers smoking an average of 31 cigarettes per week.

More than 3% of adults are presently consuming e-cigarettes; an additional 3% consume nicotine delivery products apart from the e-cigarettes (Hardy et al., 2014: 24). Marital status also affected the smoking habits as it was found that couples living together (cohabiting) are prone to smoke than the married couples, 29% and 13% respectively. The single people are least likely to smoke (Hardy et al., 2014: 26).

Factors Influencing Smoking

According to WHO (2010: 37), factors influencing smoking can be categorized into individual, societal, environmental, or cultural. Societal influence involves attitudes and behaviour of one’s social network, including family, friends and peers. On the other hand, cultural effects consist of environmental factors in terms of cultural practices, social norms and customs within a country or community that influences smoking while individual attributes are those relate to the smokers personal traits.

Environmental factors such as tobacco prices highly influences smoking in the adolescents compared to adults. Prices not only affects whether the victims smoke, but also the quantity they smoke, therefore, increase in tobacco prices immensely affects cigarette consumption among the youth and adolescents as well as other groups of smokers. According to the WHO (2010: 38), the social media equally contribute to smoking. Cigarette advertising has been revealed to influence individual beliefs and attitude towards cigarette smoking with a higher impact on the youth. Tobacco companies strive to recruit the youth into smoking with an aim of gaining profit and ensuring future sales. Research reveals film and movies related to cigarette smoking also influences the youth negatively on smoking. They portray cigarette smoking as something admirable and associate it to wealth and fame (Atkinson et al., 2017: 10).

In addition, socio-economic factors such as personal income influence smoking with individuals from low socioeconomic backgrounds are most likely to smoke compared to the affluent ones. Studies show that students attending public schools in the UK are four times more likely to smoke than students from private institutions. These students not only smoke cigarettes but also bhang (WHO, 2010: 10). Broadly, the developing countries have been found to have a higher prevalence of smoking compared to the developed ones, and this can be attributed to the poor socio-economic conditions. Societal factors such as peer influence play an important role, especially in introducing non-smokers to smoke. Young people are more likely to be influenced by their peers to start smoking. Studies also indicate that smoking is considered to be a means of socializing among some youths (WHO 2010: 38).

Cultural factors likewise play an important role in the habit of smoking. Some knowledge, beliefs and attitudes influences smoking; for instance, children and adolescents have little or no information on the effects of smoking compared to adults. Some youths and adults who are aware of the health risks tend to underestimate these risks, with the misguided belief that they are not susceptible to them. However, there are those who are well informed of the dangers of smoking to their health but still chooses to ignore, ignorance is therefore another contributing factor. Studies reveal that people who smoke especially in developing countries are less knowledgeable on the adverse health effects of smoking (Jones et al., 2014: 226). Poor health education awareness programs coupled with some cultural beliefs also contribute to tobacco smoking in such countries. In developed countries like England, such health awareness programs have increased over the years. However, how these smokers perceive the negative effects of smoking is still a controversial matter (WHO 2010: 38).

Psychosocial factors such as stress correspondingly influence smoking. Most smokers smoke due to stressful conditions in their lives, smoking is a short term solution for their stress since they believe it reduces their stress. Depressed smokers are likely to be addicted to nicotine thus finding it difficult to stop (WHO 2010: 44). Personal/ individual factors such as age and gender are amongst factors influencing smoking in the United Kingdom. Adolescents who start smoking at an early age most probably become regular smokers in future and find it hard to stop (Yan & Groothuis, 2015: 451).

Generally, multiple factors play a combined role in influencing the smoking behaviour among people of all ages. A majority of the smokers coincide in opinion that smoking helps them remain controlled when dealing with anger, psychological conditions such as tress, and domestic issues (Khurshid and Ansari, 2012: 853). These conditions arise from the society and may be boosted by personality traits of an individual. Nevertheless, the society tends to accept the subjects of smoking and smoking as a norm thus enhancing acceptance of the smoking habit.

Smoking Related UK Government Policies

The UK government has successfully formulated laws that aim to regulate the consumption and sale of tobacco amid resistance from many quarters. These regulations control how tobacco and cigarette smoking is being advertised and marketed by tobacco companies and it also put age restrictions on the consumption of tobacco, making it illegal for teenagers and children. It includes mandatory rules for tobacco producing companies to include health warning on their tobacco products such as cigarettes. The government vastly uses the media to educate the public on the health effects of smoking and it prohibits smoking in public places

England’s ministry of health is continuously coming up with ways of reducing the prevalence of smoking in the country; they conduct public health awareness campaign on smoking and its health risks. These campaigns highlight the addictiveness of smoking; its association to cancer and early deaths and the effects smoking has even to the passive smokers (Christodoulou, 2015: 44). In 2007, the UK government imposed ban on smoking in public places as one of the public health policy aimed at reducing the diseases and deaths related to tobacco use. This came as a result of the almost failure of the implementation of the white paper’s approach to a voluntary ban of public smoking. The Republic of Ireland took the first bold step by imposing a ban on smoking in workplaces. The Section 2 Part One of the Health Act 2006 contains information on the premises that are set out to be smoke free such as places open to members of the public or places of work with more than one person (Murray & Mcneill, 2012: 628).These policies and regulations were set to protect the non-smokers from second-hand smoke.

In February 2014, the House of Commons voted in favour of an amendment to the Children and Families Bill, giving the ministers in England and Wales to impose a ban on smoking in cars when children with children. This policy follows examples of the U.S, some jurisdictions in Australia, Canada and South Africa among others. This was a measure to reduce children exposure to second-hand smoke (Yan & Groothuis, 2015: 448).

Christodoulou (2015: 45) highlights the UK government efforts of providing medical treatment to assist smokers in stopping their addiction and these are the nicotine replacement therapies. Initially, such treatments were only given on doctor’s prescription but over the years, the government has allowed the accessibility of such treatment over the counter without prescriptions. They are now found in the form of lozenges, patches and chewing gums. Fortunately, these measures that have been put across by the British government has proven to be effective, reports show a gradual decline in the prevalence of smoking in the country.

Smoking has negative implications on one’s health. It has been linked to many respiratory diseases including cancer and has contributed to mortality rates not only in the United Kingdom but the world at large. The prevalence of smoking in England is high and this presents as a national burden to the health sector of the country since it increases the national expenditures spent on smoking related illnesses and death. On the brighter side, the prevalence of smoking has shown a steady decline over the years which can be mainly attributed to the government interventions mentioned earlier in the paper. Personal, social and cultural factors which influence smoking need to be meticulously addressed so as to control and eventually eradicate smoking in the United Kingdom. This will ultimately improve individual health status and boost the country’s health sector (Leicester & Levell, 2016: 227).

Moreover, to reduce, prevent and control the economic and social devastating effects of smoking, there is need for the adoption of effective measures (Belvin et al., 2015: 8). The government should put in place policies that may appear harsh but for the good of the people. For instance, it should ban all tobacco marketing, advertising and sponsorship activities in the society. There is also the need for raising taxes on tobacco and educating the people on some of the dangers associated with tobacco smoking. Finally, smoking is a habit that is developed by an individual; therefore, the same individual will play a major role in curbing the problem. A change in attitude and heeding of the prominent health messages in the anti-tobacco campaigns will immensely help reduce the problem of smoking (Hardy et al., 2014: 10).

References: Smoking as a Health Problem Essay

Atkinson, M, Kennedy, J, John, A, Lewis, K, Lyons, R, & Brophy, S 2017, ‘Development of an algorithm for determining smoking status and behaviour over the life course from UK electronic primary care records’, BMC Medical Informatics & Decision Making, vol.17, pp. 1-12.

Belvin, C, Britton, J, Holmes, J, & Langley, T 2015, ‘Parental smoking and child poverty in the UK: an analysis of national survey data’, BMC Public Health, vol. 15, 1, pp. 1-8.

Christodoulou, R., 2015, Smoking in the United Kingdom. In Life-Course Smoking Behaviour: Patterns and National Context in Ten Countries, Oxford University, Press New York.

Hardy, B, Szatkowski, L, Tata, L, Coleman, T, & Dhalwani, N 2014, ‘Smoking cessation advice recorded during pregnancy in United Kingdom primary care’, BMC Family Practice, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 21-36.

Jawad, M, Choaie, E, Brose, L, Dogar, O, Grant, A, Jenkinson, E, McEwen, A, Millett, C, & Shahab, L 2016, ‘Waterpipe Tobacco Use in the United Kingdom: A Cross-Sectional Study among University Students and Stop Smoking Practitioners’, Plos ONE, vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 1-15.

Jones, L, Moodie, C, MacKintosh, A, & Bauld, L 2014, ‘Young people’s exposure to and perceptions of smoking in cars and associated harms in the United Kingdom’, Drugs: Education, Prevention & Policy, vol. 21, no. 3, pp. 225-233.

Khurshid, F, & Ansari, U 2012, ‘Causes of Smoking habit among teenagers’, Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business, vol. 3, no. 9, pp. 848-855.

Leicester, A, & Levell, P 2016, ‘Anti-Smoking Policies and Smoker Well-Being: Evidence from Britain’, Fiscal Studies, vol. 37, no. 2, pp. 224-257.

Murray, R, & Mcneill, A 2012, ‘Reducing the social gradient in smoking: Initiatives in the United Kingdom’, Drug & Alcohol Review, vol. 31, no. 5, pp. 693-697.

World Health Organization, 2010, Gender, women, and the tobacco epidemic, World Health Organization.

Yan, J, & Groothuis, P 2015, ‘Timing of Prenatal Smoking Cessation or Reduction and Infant Birth Weight: Evidence from the United Kingdom Millennium Cohort Study’, Maternal & Child Health Journal, vol. 19, no. 3, pp. 447-458.

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