Smokers in the UK

May 15, 2013

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Each day I think I lose a few hours of my life due to the amount of smokers here in London. It is not like in the United Sates, where if you walk past a smoker you can just hold your breath and happily breathe fresh air after you pass them. If you tried to do this on the streets of London you would pass out. According to the ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) foundation , one in five British adults smoke, compared to less than a sixth of Americans. Also, unlike the US, the UK  packages of cigarettes have  horrible pictures, of what smoking can do to your body, and yet they continue puffing away their life. Some packages just have two words on the front: “SMOKING KILLS”. I learned in my Health Psychology class here at Regent’s College, that people do not like to have their integrity questioned. When their integrity is questioned, they deny the facts presented to them. This explains why the pictures on cigarette packages do not work. The pictures may imply that the individual is not making a smart decision; even though he or she may be a smart, logical person. So instead, people deny that these pictures are reality and continue to smoke. They may also believe that these horrible things depicted in the pictures could not happen to them. This, as I learned in the Health Psychology course, is called “unrealistic optimism”.

Regent’s College has this beautiful courtyard that I would love to walk through to get to the classes over there, but you cannot breathe out there. You think “Oh, some fresh air would be nice” until you walk outside to about a hundred Europeans smoking their lives away. It is not a big courtyard by any means so to pack all these smokers so tightly together creates this smoky fog. Needless to say, I have yet to set foot in this courtyard. Luckily, smoking in restaurants is now illegal. Because there are so many smokers though, there are quite a few tables outside restaurants with heat lamps around them. Sometimes they even give you a blanket. This way, smokers can enjoy their cigarettes with their meals outside away from people. I was fortunate enough to hear the other side of the argument from a friend of mine that I have met recently from France. She told me that it is looked at as attractive in Europe. Though this is still not a compelling reason to smoke in my opinion, I accepted and respected her point of view. It is part of their culture. 

Like in the US, there are quite a few campaigns to help the two thirds or so individuals that wish to quit. The National Health Service (NHS) is the healthcare here in the UK and they cover the majority of medications. Individuals can get Nicotine patches, gum or lozenges either for free of for very inexpensive. Other medications like Champix and Zyban are medications that reduce nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms are covered in the NHS. The only thing that is not provided in the NHS is smoking and quitting education or counseling. It is an addiction so the mental and emotional aspects need to be attended to as well. There is some good news though in the UK; the number of smokers is actually decreasing; though you would not think so based by how many smokers you walk by on the streets every day. 

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