Through supporting proposals to raise the age of sale for tobacco, health and care partnerships can help reduce the burden of smoking-related illnesses on the population, having a long-term impact on both our most disadvantaged communities and regional and national economies.
The government's recent proposal to incrementally raise the age of sale for tobacco has ignited important conversations about prevention and the role that ICBs and wider health and care partnerships need to play to achieve the ambition of a smoke-free future.
A shared goal
Tackling tobacco is a shared goal, as smoking remains the leading cause of preventable illness and is responsible for 64,000 deaths in England a year, with three-quarters of current smokers saying they would never have started if they had the choice again. Beyond health metrics, smoking makes people poorer; it drags on our nation's productivity and prosperity; and disproportionately affects individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds and marginalised communities. Each month, 75,000 GP appointments could be attributed to smoking and almost every minute of the day, someone is admitted to hospital because of smoking. It is estimated that the total costs of smoking in England are more than £17 billion, including productivity losses of up to £14 billion.
We have the power to bind all stakeholders, including public health agencies, local authorities, and healthcare providers, to a common goal
As ICBs, it is our duty to address health inequalities caused by smoking and we have a unique opportunity to lead our communities towards this proposed, life-changing legislation. We are at the beating heart of collaboration. We have the power to bind all stakeholders, including public health agencies, local authorities, and healthcare providers, to a common goal. By themselves, these stakeholders can sometime struggle to be heard. As a partnership, they have the power to plug their collection of loudspeakers into the same sound system and turn up the volume. The noise they make can shake the chambers of decision-making, ensuring that the cause, which has such a profound impact on their communities, will be heard.
health and care partnerships can make a real impact on reducing the burden of smoking-related illnesses on the population
With ICBs driving support of the government's proposal to incrementally raise the age of sale for tobacco, as well as increased funding for smoking cessation services, health and care partnerships can make a real impact on reducing the burden of smoking-related illnesses on the population, having a long-term positive impact on both our most disadvantaged communities and, in turn, regional and national economies.
By supporting smoking cessation resources and targeting high-risk populations, ICBs can help to bridge the gap and ensure that all individuals have equal access to the resources they need to quit smoking and lead healthier, longer lives.
By focusing on prevention efforts, we can engage our populations in important conversations about health policy that can drive behaviour change.
Work underway in Humber and North Yorkshire ICB
For our own part, in Humber and North Yorkshire ICB, we have prioritised treating tobacco dependence by accelerating the rollout of the NHS Long Term Plan across our region, in addition to funding a Centre for Excellence in Tobacco Control, with a dedicated team focused on innovation, collaboration, co-ordination and amplification of messaging. The team has met with colleagues from Fresh in the North East, London Tobacco Alliance and the Make Smoking History team in Greater Manchester to discuss plans for the continual flow of PR, social media and digital content throughout the legislation consultation period, working hand in hand with experts from public health charity, Action on Smoking and Health, so we have the same message from many voices.
We’ve issued press releases highlighting our backing from ICB level, evidencing useful supporting research, to help to inform our local areas on the reasons why this legislation is so important. In addition to this, we are working closely with our directors of public health and local authority colleagues to further bolster the same message from many voices.
We are working together with our ICB engagement and insight team to go out into our communities to capture and evidence public opinion and support for the proposal.
ICBs have the power to bind all system partners to a common goal. Let us embrace this opportunity, working together to unite our communities and partners in their understanding that, together, we will win the war on tobacco by speaking loudly through all our available channels and doing everything in our power to make sure this life-changing legislation is passed to build a healthier, smoke-free future for all.
Stephen Eames is chief executive, Sue Symington is chair, and Amanda Bloor is chief operating officer of Humber and North Yorkshire Integrated Care Board.
You can follow Stephen on Twitter/X @stepheneamesnhs