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Priorities for Government

With the commencement of lung cancer awareness month, public health commentators are speaking out about what the government should prioritise

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With the commencement of November’s lung cancer awareness month, public health commentators are speaking out about what the government should prioritise to reduce the impact of smoking related disease. The Health Foundation raises the subject of underfunding of NHS services while Professor Sir Chris Whitty raises the need for the Tobacco Control Plan to be published.

Pulmonologist John Costello told journalists that incidents of lung cancer occur more often in older people, which probably reflects “more prolonged exposure to tobacco smoke.”

Lisa Jacques, a specialist cancer nurse, told The Independent: “Smoking is the cause of most lung cancers and the biggest risk factor.”

Speaking to the newspaper, John Costello added: “Lung cancer has a 65% survival rate for five years in people with localised disease. If it has spread around the body at the time of diagnosis, the survival rate is only eight percent.”

The need for action is pressing. While the United Kingdom leads the world with its support to encourage smokers to switch to vaping if they feel unable to quit outright, some experts still harbour concerns.

Speaking to Politics Home, The Health Foundation’s Senior Policy Fellow Adam Briggs said that the government has to focus on promoting public health if it is to reduce demand on NHS services – services that have not experienced an increase in funding to match the rise in demand. He says this has resulted in a net 24% cut in funding.

A key part of addressing this problem, he argues, would be for the government to produce its long-promised Tobacco Control Plan, incorporating the recommendations from Javed Khan’s independent review.

He urges ministers to target prevention as laid down in the government’s previously planned public health policy.

Also, the Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Sir Chris Whitty told a medical ethics symposium that addressing the problem means “destroying” the tobacco industry as part of his presentation on the role of the state in public health.

Smoking is the biggest driver that we could easily deal with in the sense of the inequalities we see across the UK. It is an appalling way to die, it kills people in multiple ways. Everyone in this room I suspect would agree that getting smoking down to zero and destroying the cigarette industry should be an aim of public health, and I would say that very categorically,” he stated.
His impression of the government’s sense of urgency left a lot to be desired, saying that “ministers will in due course want to look at [the Khan review] and decide which things within that they wish to do”.

With “tens of thousands” of smokers dying prematurely each year and an estimated 30 times more suffering from other smoking related diseases, maybe it is time for the Department of Health to cease procrastination and enact the Khan review’s recommendations.

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Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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