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Smoking rates in Wales drop to 'lowest ever level'

Credit: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

A survey published by the Welsh Government says the number of adults smoking in Wales has fallen to the lowest ever level and other lifestyle habits are showing signs of improvement.

A total of 14,000 adults and 3,000 children took part in the Welsh Health Survey 2014. Key results show:

  • Smoking has fallen to its lowest ever level – 20% of adults reported they currently smoke
  • Drinking and binge drinking has fallen again to its lowest reported level – 40% of adults reported drinking above the recommended guidelines on at least one day in the past week
  • Obesity rates have not increased over the past two years
  • Around 31% of adults reported being physically active on five or more days in the previous week;
  • 94% of children reported having very good or good general health;

The Welsh Health Survey is the nation’s annual health check-up; the results show encouraging signs of improvement, however, many of us are still not acting on advice and taking steps to lead healthier and more active lifestyles, which we know can be beneficial to our own health and wellbeing.

We also know that our poor lifestyle choices can – and do - put a huge strain on the Welsh NHS. The government has a responsibility to create the right conditions in which we can all live full and healthy lives and each of us has a duty to look after ourselves.

– Mark Drakeford AM, Health and Social Services Minister

While I take encouragement in the gradual improvement seen in our nation’s health, the reality is that too many of us are still drinking too much, eating too much and not being active enough.

It’s good to see the number of people smoking continuing to fall but there is still a long way to go to reach our goal. Our lifestyle choices can lead to serious health problems which can affect our quality of life and ultimately risk our lives.

– Dr Ruth Hussey, Chief Medical Officer for Wales

RCP: 'E-cigarettes are way out of smoking for so many'

Professor John Britton, chair of the Royal College of Physicians' Tobacco Advisory Group, said the doctors group disagrees with the Welsh Government's plans to ban e-cigarettes from enclosed public spaces "simply because electronic cigarettes are the way out of smoking for so many smokers."

He said "it's inappropriate to use tobacco legislation" for the vapour devices.

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Doctors group: E-cigarettes could help cut smoking

The Royal College of Physicians says "e-cigarettes could lead to significant falls in the prevalence of smoking".

While it supports regulation of electronic cigarettes, the doctors group does not support the Welsh Government's plans to ban the use of e-cigs in enclosed public places.

The RCP says: "On the basis of available evidence, the RCP believes that e-cigarettes could lead to significant falls in the prevalence of smoking, prevent many deaths and episodes of serious illness, and help to reduce the social inequalities in health that tobacco smoking currently exacerbates."

Read More: Welsh Government proposes ban on e-cigs in enclosed public places

It has published its response to the Welsh Government's consultation, saying:

  • Electronic cigarettes and other novel nicotine devices can provide an effective, affordable and readily available retail alternative to conventional cigarettes
  • These new products present potential risks as well as opportunities for health, and therefore the RCP advocates proportionate regulation
  • Regulation should ensure that products deliver nicotine effectively and safely, that advertising and promotion do not target young people or other non-smokers, and that advertising and use (for example, in public places) do not undermine smoking prevention policies
  • The RCP supports regulation of electronic cigarettes - and close monitoring of their use is essential to ensure trends counter to public health are identified and acted upon

Doctors group questions e-cigarette public ban plans

Doctors group the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) in Wales has published its response to the Welsh Government's proposal to ban the use of e-cigarettes in public places.

It says it doesn't support a ban because the devices can help people give up conventional cigarettes. But it does support better regulation and a ban on the sale of electronic cigarettes to people under 18.

The Royal College of Physicians argues e-cigarettes can help people avoid the dangers of tobacco. Credit: Tim Ireland/PA Wire

The RCP says smoking accounts for approximately 5,450 deaths every year in Wales where it is estimated that 14,500 young people a year take up smoking.

The Welsh Government has said there is a risk e-cigarettes could 'normalise' smoking once again. It say it will consider all responses to its consultation in due course.

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Supporting pregnant women giving up smoking 'vital'

The Chief Executive of health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Wales, Elen de Lacy, says it is a "sad fact" that smoking during pregnancy in Wales continues to be considerably above the UK average, but that it is "vital" mums-to-be are given "extra support" to help them give up.

It is a sad fact that Wales continues to have the highest rate of smoking in pregnancy in the whole of the UK.

Giving up smoking is hard on its own but with the added pressures of having a baby it is doubly challenging, which is why extra support is vital for pregnant women to help them give up.

Midwives and health visitors are able to build close relationships with women, at home and in the community, and are often the best placed to support women throughout their pregnancies and afterwards.

– Elen de Lacy, Chief Executive of ASH Wales

Smoking during pregnancy 'stubbornly high' in Wales

More than 11,000 babies a year are affected by smoking in Wales Credit: PA

Wales has the highest rate of smoking during pregnancy in the UK, which is putting thousands of babies' lives at risk, health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Wales has warned.

One third of mums-to-be in Wales smoke at some point during their pregnancy - considerably higher than the UK average, which lies at just over one quarter - exposing 11,864 unborn babies to harm from tobacco each year.

Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of stillbirth, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (cot death); premature birth; low birth-weight and miscarriage.

Maternal smoking is also associated with a range of health problems throughout the baby's life including asthma, birth defects such as cleft lip, ADHD and learning difficulties.

In Wales, one-to-one quit smoking support can be provided to pregnant women by Stop Smoking Wales, but rates remain "stubbornly high". according to ASH Wales.

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