Significant progress has been made in reducing smoking prevalence within the United Kingdom but the benefits have not fallen fairly across all groups. Smoking rates amongst those with personal incomes under £10,000 per annum is more than double of those with incomes over £40,000. However, there are other groups with rates higher still, for example people experiencing mental ill health have a smoking prevalence rate double the population average. Amongst those who are homeless or rough sleeping we see even higher rates, in many instances services report that all their clients smoke.

Traditionally these groups have often not registered on the radar of smoking cessation campaigns, being seen as “too hard to reach”, or unlikely to engage. Many of the specialist services have also tended to consider their clients as being unready to attempt quitting smoking or considering that such approaches might undermine their efforts to engage and retain them in services.

This situation has helped contribute to a worsening of health inequalities where some of our most vulnerable citizens are not being given the support and encouragement to help them significantly improve their health. Given the evidence that many people in this group actively want to quit smoking and the developing experience that people with a range of issues can successfully address their smoking habit before or while dealing with other problems means we should be increasingly optimistic about working with disadvantaged groups to reduce smoking related ill health and premature mortality.

The London Drug and Alcohol Policy Forum has worked for decades to reduce the harm and damage that alcohol and drugs cause individuals and communities. Over the years alcohol and drug work have become more closely aligned and increasingly considered in the same context. Smoking has its own profile of harms but the overlap with those with substance misuse issues is profound.

On 31 October 2017, at Guildhall, the London Drug and Alcohol Policy Forum will be hosting a Global Forum on Nicotine dialogue looking at practical experience from the USA and England in terms of the role vaping might play in helping individuals quite smoking. The audience for this ground breaking event will include staff from front line services, policy makers and local authorities. It will provide a real opportunity to debate the challenges and benefits of new approaches to engaging with people too often overlooked. The potential benefits are massive. We hope you can join us.

It’s free to attend. To register click here.