Smoking is the single largest cause of preventable death and the biggest cause of cancer both in the UK and worldwide. Not only is it responsible for some 35,000 lung cancer deaths every year, but it is a contributory factor in a large number of other types of cancer.
Additionally, it is responsible for other types of lung disease, heart disease and neonatal deaths leading to some 80,000 deaths each year overall.
In the UK smoking is estimated to cause 50% of all health inequalities. As the middle classes have stopped smoking so lung cancer and other smoking related diseases have become the preserve of the working classes.
With the advent of e-cigarettes, there is an available substitute for those who argue that they have become legally addicted to nicotine and there are also plentiful over-the-counter options such as nicotine patches, as well as smoking cessation assistance from the NHS.
Nearly all the advances in smoking cessation in the last 50 years has been as a result of changes in regulation and legislation. Of particular note was the 2005 legislation prohibiting smoking in public places. Zero tobacco use will only come about by legislation to make smoking illegal.
As a result this campaign is very much about winning hearts and minds to drive changes in legislation, as it is with air pollution. We campaign directly by speaking up at the AGM of cancer hospital trusts, Clinical Commissioning Groups, local Health and Wellbeing Boards. We make our voice heard in Patient Participation Groups of GP surgeries. We lobby local politicians and elected officials in health committees that can be attended by the public. We never miss an opportunity to convey our message to the Palace of Westminster. We back up our direct action with a programme of targeted hard copy and on-line communications, and social media.
Everybody agrees with us, but unfortunately nobody wants to take action.