Taking action on smoking and health
A new research report, drawing on a range of interviews and focus groups with anti-poverty interests in Scotland, has found widespread awareness of how smoking harms people living in poverty, but a reluctance to engage with the issue unless the debate is framed in terms of support and understanding, with no hint of judgement or blame.
The Poverty Alliance and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Scotland have worked together to address both the financial costs and the health problems caused by smoking. Concerned at the lack of joined up activity between health and anti-poverty interests, the two organisations are exploring how the different language and assumptions used in the two sectors limit partnership working.
Launched at an event in Glasgow this week the research report highlights that people experiencing poverty are more likely to smoke because they are more likely to be subject to stresses and less likely to have access to alternative coping mechanisms. There is a need for all organisations working with people on low incomes to better understand the contexts that many people living on low incomes are in, and provide support that recognises this context.
Peter Kelly, Director of the Poverty Alliance, said:
“People living in poverty face pressures that restricts choices and leaves them feeling little sense of control. Whilst a minority of people living in places affected by poverty actually smoke, the health and financial impacts fall disproportionately on them. There is a need to recognise that smoking is a burden on people living in poverty, not a support – but in responding to that we need to understand the context in which people are living, and listen to the voices of people living in poverty talking of the valid needs and wishes they are looking to address.”
Sheila Duffy, Chief Executive of ASH Scotland, said:
“We know only too well the harm caused by smoking, and that most people who smoke say that they want to stop. But we need to listen to the voices of people affected by smoking, so that health campaigns and support services can be better tailored to the needs, experiences and perceptions of the people affected. People who smoke don’t want to be told what to do, but they don’t want the harm and costs that come with smoking either. By understanding each other and working together, health and anti-poverty groups will be better placed to learn what really works.”
The report sets out how those with an interest in reducing the impact of smoking are often divided by the way they think about the issue - some people discuss smoking in terms of health concerns, others focus on social needs and some will seek to emphasise recreational choice. The research focus groups centred on the shared interests and overlap between the health and social approaches, in order to explore ways in which health and anti-poverty interests could find common language and assumptions, as the basis for improved collaboration.
Action on Smoking & Health (Scotland) (ASH Scotland) is a registered Scottish charity (SC 010412) and a company limited by guarantee(Scottish company no 141711). The registered office is 8 Frederick Street, Edinburgh EH2 2HB.
ASH Scotland acknowledges with thanks the support of the British Heart Foundation and the Scottish Government in developing our website.