Calls for greater quit smoking support for renters after figures reveal high smoking rates

NEW figures on smoking in Wales reveal renters are the most likely to smoke, leading to calls for more support to help them quit.

The figures, based on a survey carried out for ASH Wales by YouGov, reveal smoking prevalence among social housing residents is 24% and 18% for those renting from a private landlord.

The average across all housing tenures is 13% and smoking prevalence among those who own or part own their home is the lowest at 10%.

According to ASH Wales, these figures go some way to explain the stark health inequalities across different housing tenures and show the need for more targeted support and guidance around smoking cessation.

It is calling for those who work with people in rented accommodation, such as housing associations and debt advisors, to be given more training and support on how to start conversations about smoking and its impact on health and finances.

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Suzanne Cass, CEO of ASH Wales, said:

“Smoking is not a lifestyle choice, it is an addiction, these figures show where support is needed to help smokers break that addiction.

“It is vitally important we use this information to direct smoking cessation resources to where they are most needed.

“The housing sector in Wales is committed to improving the health of vulnerable people and we are keen they are given the right support and guidance around starting that stop smoking conversation with their tenants.”

The figures also highlight the increased exposure to second hand smoke among those in rented accommodation compared to home owners.

Social housing residents are twice as likely as residents in other housing tenures to be exposed to second hand smoke in their own home.

Nearly half of these residents (45%) will be exposed to smoke from someone situated outside their immediate home, such as a neighbour. This compares to just 21% across all other housing tenures.

Worryingly the young and vulnerable are most at risk with second hand smoke exposure higher among households with children, compared to households without children.  Over a quarter of respondents, 27%, in homes with children aged 0-5 are exposed to second hand smoke from someone living elsewhere, such as a neighbour.

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The smoking figures for Wales mirror those in England where ASH England has revealed that smoking is twice as common in social housing than in other tenures.  A report launched in Parliament, Smoking in the home; new solutions for the smoke free generation, calls for greater engagement from housing and health professionals in the communities that need the most support.

Despite the high rates of smoking prevalence among housing tenants, ASH Wales’ survey also reveals 87% of Welsh adults stating that they would prefer to live with a non-smoker.

One in five of all Welsh adults still smoke and smoking kills more than 5,000 people in Wales every year. Exposure to second hand smoke carries significant health risks for both children and adults including increasing children’s risk of lower respiratory tract infections by around 50% and doubling a child’s risk of invasive meningococcal disease.

Scott Sanders, CEO of Linc-Cymru Housing Association has recently been appointed as ASH Wales chairman.

He believes the housing sector can help reduce health inequalities:

 “Affordable housing plays an important role in providing safe and secure environments from which people can build their lives, but it goes beyond that as everything we do must contribute to people’s health, well-being and prosperity.

“Achieving this will help to reduce the inequality that exists in communities and reduce the correlation between socio-economic status and the prevalence of smoking.”

ASH Wales has published information for housing associations and landlords on how to reduce smoking prevalence and implement smoke free policies. Download this at ash.wales/campaign/smokefree-homes/.