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Work & Smoking — The Employee Health Report

This report has been collated by disposable vape and vape kit retailer Vape Club. Material is available to re-publish, with credit (including link) to Vape Club. Please get in touch for additional information.

Encouraging Smoking Cessation For Routine And Manual Occupation Professionals

An analysis of quitting inequality: how lorry drivers, care home staff and other service, routine and manual occupations are nearly three times more likely to smoke.

The UK government aims to achieve a smoke-free England by 2030 - a target that will be met when smoking prevalence falls below 5% of the population. To reach that target, urgent action is required to encourage people to quit smoking, particularly in demographics that have the highest smoking rates.

In line with these goals, the UK government is urging smokers to swap cigarettes for vapes in a world first scheme - 'swap to stop' - designed to improve the nation's health. Almost one in five of all smokers in England will be provided with a vape starter kit and behavioural support as part of the scheme.

The government's 2017 tobacco control plan includes a plan to 'reduce the inequality gap in smoking prevalence between those in service, routine and manual occupations and the general population'. According to the latest PHE data, that gap currently stands at employees in service, routine and manual occupations being 77% more likely to smoke This gap has increased by 5% since 2017.

Here at Vape Club, we wanted to raise awareness of this disparity and outline what employers can do to support smoking cessation. Our Employee Health Report has collated and analysed the latest data from the Office for National Statistics and the Office for Health Improvement & Disparities.

Smoking and professions: what does the data tell us?

More must be done to address this health inequality for those in routine and manual occupations if England is to realise its smoke-free targets.

  • Almost twice as many employees in service, routine and manual occupations smoke, with a difference of 65% for smoking prevalence between them and the general population highlighting the inequality gap.
  • Just over one in five (21%) of service, routine and manual employees in England smokes
  • Individuals in manual labour or service industry roles are nearly three times more likely to smoke than those in managerial and professional occupations. In managerial and professional occupations just 8.5% of people smoke, according to the latest data

It's vital that everyone has the same access to support and nobody in society is left behind. Falling rates of smoking are rightly celebrated, but we can't ignore the kind of inequality this data shows. The UK government recognises the importance of vaping for helping smokers quit cigarettes - their new 'swap to stop' scheme is a pioneering step in the right direction towards giving smokers the right support.

Dan Marchant, Managing Director Of Vape Club

Who are those employees most likely to still be smoking?

According to ONS definitions, 'routine and manual occupations' encompass routine technical, sales and service, production, operative, and agricultural occupations. Specific roles covered by the routine and manual occupation definition include lorry drivers, receptionists, security guards, farmers and bar staff, to name only a few.

Where in England do more employees in service, routine and manual occupations smoke?

Some areas of England are falling far behind when it comes to tackling smoking rates.

In Manchester, Islington and Merton - the three worst-affected areas - people working in service, routine and manual roles are more than three times more likely to smoke than the average person in England. In the 20 areas with the highest smoking rates in such roles, the probability of these employees smoking is at least twice as high as the national average.

Which areas are bucking the trend?

There are just eight areas in England where service, routine and manual employees are less likely to smoke than the average person. In Sefton, the rate of smoking in these employees is around 8%, well below the national average of 13%

If other areas of the country followed Sefton's lead, England would be significantly closer to meeting the goal of 5% smoking prevalence.

Wider issues: the impact of smoking on mental health

In the construction industry, the suicide rate is three times higher than the national average. While UNISON reports that 68% of care home workers have experienced deteriorating mental health since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

Many people in service, routine and manual roles face similar problems, and smoking itself can cause mental health issues. The NHS says: “Evidence suggests the beneficial effect of stopping smoking on symptoms of anxiety and depression can equal that of taking antidepressants.”

According to the latest government data, a quarter (almost 26%) of people with long-term mental conditions smoke - more than twice the national average. Among those with a serious mental illness, smoking prevalence is over 40%, making them over three times (235%) more likely to smoke than the average person.

Mental health problems can manifest themselves in many ways. Some of the most common symptoms are feelings that:

  • Affect mood over the course of several weeks
  • Prevent people from progressing with their lives
  • Have a significant effect on people living or working with those suffering symptoms
  • Cause suicidal thoughts

Anybody experiencing such feelings should contact their GP as soon as possible. Free 24 hour phone lines such as the Samaritans are also available to give a judgement-free listening ear.

How can manual labour and service industry employers encourage quitting?

In addition to benefitting mental health, quitting smoking obviously greatly improves smokers' physical health. Having healthier employees is clearly in any business' interest, resulting in fewer absences from work and more productive personnel.

Organisations can also play a significant role in helping employees to quit. According to a 2013 study, workplace cessation programmes achieve higher quit rates (13% overall) than non-work-based programmes, after six months. And the UK Health Security Agency cites that people are 34% more likely to quit when someone they work with stops.

HR teams could help encourage smoking cessation by adopting a smoke-free policy in the workplace, this means smoking on-site, the parking area and doorways is prohibited. This simple step is very impactful and by making smoking that little bit more inconvenient, it can be a constant reminder to break the habit.

Bethany Smith, HR Advisor At Heatable

So how can employers support people who want to quit?

  • Workplace health support: According to 20% of former smokers in the Vape Club 'Mental Health, Stress And Quitting Smoking study', greater workplace support on workload, stress, and mental health would have helped them to quit smoking
  • Support smoking cessation: Employer funding for tools such as vaping for nicotine replacement therapy would have been beneficial, according to 36% of ex-smokers
  • Support groups: Whether facilitated by professionals or more informally organised, support groups allow people to share quitting strategies and encourage each other along the way
  • Introduce physical activities: Research has revealed that even light exercise can produce anti-craving chemicals. Businesses can set up sports teams or daily activities to get people moving

Ways to quit - how to get help

For anybody trying to quit smoking, the NHS provides comprehensive stop smoking services, including cessation aids like patches, chewing gum and tablets. Many of those quitting smoking find vapes an effective way to transition away from cigarettes.

The NHS also offers one-to-one advice and group support, while plenty of charities and other organisations offer mental health support:

  • Mental health charity Mind has been active for more than 70 years
  • NHS urgent mental health helplines are open 24/7
  • Vape Club's Beginner's Guide to Vaping gives comprehensive information for those looking to make the switch from cigarettes
  • Hub of Hope lists all kinds of local mental health services

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