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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

Smoking in the home: new solutions for a smokefree generation


Does the housing sector have a role to play in tackling the health problems caused by smoking? Hazel Cheeseman, director of policy at Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), outlines the findings of its latest research.

The launch of the government’s new ‘prevention vision’ and the promise of a prevention green paper this year may have passed many people in housing by. But the Secretary of State for Health clearly has his eye on a stronger role for sectors beyond the NHS and public health in tackling entrenched health problems. The prevention vision specifically namechecks the housing sector as a potential partner in improving the “wider environment we live in [that] determines our health.”

Citing links between health and housing is nothing new. But what does that mean in practice for tackling the environments perpetuating the leading causes of ill health in the 21st century? ASH has spent the last year giving this some thought. Our new report ‘Smoking in the Home: new solutions for a smokefree generation’ was published at the end of 2018 after extensive consultation with landlords (private and social), local government, tenants and other associated professionals such as fire and environmental health. The report was overseen by Lee Sugden, chief executive of Salix Homes in Salford and Ruth Tennant, the then director of public health in Leicester and latterly Solihull.

We concluded that there are major potential benefits for landlords, tenants, home owners and public health outcomes through embracing new ways of tackling smoking that focus on where we live.

The report also found significant variation by tenure. One in three people in social housing smoke, which is more than double the rate across the whole population. Not only are children living in these households significantly more likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke, but they’re up to three times more likely to become smokers themselves locking them into a cycle of inequality.

This concentration of smoking impacts on whole communities, reducing economic wellbeing, undermining the success of quit attempts, increasing exposure to secondhand smoke and causing conflict between smoking and non-smoking neighbours.

This picture is not inevitable. Smoking rates have been falling in all groups for many years now. But they are not falling fast enough in our poorest communities and this is exacerbating inequality. It’s time to do things differently.

The report makes a range of recommendations for different stakeholders. These include:

  • More professionals engaged in addressing people’s smoking behaviour in their home. Short, simple advice or sign-posting to quitting options, delivered consistently and sympathetically by professionals who come into routine contact with smokers in their home could make a big impact.
  • Locating evidence-based support where smokers live. While local environments can undermine smokers’ quit attempts the right support can counter this. Local authority and NHS services need to be in the heart of the communities that need them most.
  • Identifying opportunities to normalise smokefree homes. This report does not advocate blanket bans on smoking in the home. However, there are opportunities for landlords, planners and others to seek ways to create more smokefree environments through working collaboratively with tenants and supporting their choices.

The report also calls for strategic leadership from local and national government and the setting of clear targets to end childhood exposure to smoke in the home.

To find out more about the report join our webinar on Monday 18 February. Lee and Ruth will present the key findings and report recommendations and we’ll hear from a number of other stakeholders presenting case studies that put the recommendations into practice.

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