Researchers Plan to Use Community to Help Reduce Smoking in Nottingham

Researchers Plan to Use Community to Help Reduce Smoking in Nottingham

In an attempt to help encourage people to quit smoking in an area that has one of the highest rates of smoking in the United Kingdom, researchers from the University of Nottingham are focusing on the power of the community.

With funding from NHS Nottingham City, the researchers plan to challenge the social acceptance of smoking in Nottingham’s Aspley ward, which has the third highest rate in England. Fifty-three percent of Aspely residents smoke, compared to the national average of twenty-one percent. Smoking is a main reason for premature death in Aspley.

Professor Ann McNeill, of the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies at the University, and her colleagues wanted to find out why so many people in Aspley smoke, and to study the effect of social challenges—such as high unemployment rates and low incomes—on smoking rates in the community.

The researchers hope to use this information to develop a community-lead approach to reducing smoking in Aspley, creating a positive environment where young people don’t start smoking and people who want to quit smoking are given the support they need.

They interviewed 100 people on the street and held focus groups consisting of current smokers, former smokers, and non-smokers of all ages to discuss the differing attitudes toward smoking.

From these interviews and focus groups, they found that smoking was the social norm, and was strongly associated with unemployment, boredom, and stress. It was also seen as a social activity, allowing people in the community to identify with one another.

They found that there was a general lack of health awareness in regard to healthy eating, alcohol consumption, and smoking, but residents had a great amount of sympathy for people who were seen as disadvantaged and addicted to smoking.

People seemed to accept the negative consequences of smoking, but dismissed government warnings for the most part. They also generally believed that there needs to be more education about the dangers of smoking for children, which should begin in elementary school.

Many smokers and non-smokers considered cigarettes a “little luxury” that disadvantaged people could enjoy. While most smokers wanted to quit smoking, it was often put off until the timing or mental state was right.

Finally, most people thought that smoking cessation services needed to be more flexible and accessible to those in poorer areas.

Professor McNeill said that they also identified a strong sense of community, which could be used to promote their anti-smoking efforts. The researchers felt that they would have more success by allowing problems to be addressed at a local level.

Marilyn Antoniak, a fellow researcher, said that by working with community members, they hope to send positive messages to smokers to encourage them to use the local support to help them cut down and eventually stop smoking. The two-year project is an example of “action research,” where researchers use the local community to address social issues.

Dr. Jeanelle de Gruchy, Deputy Director of Public Health at NHS Nottingham City, said that this kind of research is important in understanding why the smoking rate is so high in some communities. Once more is understood about the reasons behind smoking, researchers can more effectively provide an environment that prevents smoking and helps people quit.

Source: Science Daily, A Community Approach to Kicking the Habit, June 29, 2010


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