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A new report from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has called for e-cigarettes to be permitted on hospital grounds to help the NHS seek completely smoke-free sites.
Hosting its Innovation in Medicine conference in London, the RCP also suggests that stop-smoking services should be an ‘opt-out’ element of NHS care for smoking addiction, a move that has the potential to increase quit rates by double in patients.
Smokers who start smoking at the start of adult life lose an average of 10 years of life expectancy, or around one year for every four years of smoking after the age of 35. Smoking is also recognised cause of numerous cancers, COPD, heart disease and stroke, but it also increases the risks of conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, flu, asthma and dementia.
Hiding in plain sight: Treating tobacco dependency in the NHS makes a list of recommendations, including: smokers should be identified and receive cost-effective treatment to help them quit; smoking cessation should be a systematic, ‘opt-out’ part of all NHS services, and delivered in smoke-free settings; allowing electronic cigarettes to be used on NHS sites to support smokers to remain smoke-free and help to sustain smoke-free policies; training in smoking cessation should be introduced into all healthcare professional training; and smoking cessation treatments save money for the NHS in the short term and long term - and should be prioritised as a core NHS activity.
John Britton, chair of the RCP's Tobacco Advisory Group, said: "Treating the more than one million smokers who are admitted to hospitals every year represents a unique opportunity for the NHS to improve patients' lives, while also saving money. For too long the NHS has failed to take responsibility for smoking, while prioritising other, less effective activity. Smoking, the biggest avoidable cause of death and disability in the UK, is hiding in plain sight in our hospitals and other NHS services; the NHS must end the neglect of this huge opportunity to improve our nation's health."
Duncan Selbie, chief executive at Public Health England, said: "One in four hospital patients are smokers costing hospitals £1 billion a year. We fully support the Royal College in saying by far the majority of the NHS could be doing more to help smokers to quit."