Significant efforts have been undertaken in recent years to address London’s alcohol and smoking challenges. However, there are still 8400 smoking-related deaths per year in London and ‘high-risk’ drinking causes over 20,000 hospital admissions. These unhealthy habits shorten the life of too many Londoners and put a significant strain on London’s healthcare services.
We aim to reduce smoking rates in adults to 13% – in line with the lowest major global city – and reduce the impact of other unhealthy habits.
A fresh crackdown on illegal tobacco
London has been taking action against illegal tobacco through city-wide, sub-regional and local collaboration. The GLA, boroughs, HMRC, London Fire Brigade, Border Force, Metropolitan Police, Trading Standards and PHE London have formed a Londonwide illegal tobacco group, led by the Director of Public Health in Tower Hamlets. This group has identified where collaboration could help in combatting illegal tobacco, which makes it easier and cheaper for London’s children to start and continue to smoke.
Londonwide action is also supporting three sub-regional illegal tobacco groups in London, ensuring that best practice is shared across different parts of the city. This autumn, PHE London will be working with partners to support boroughs to prioritise and effectively enforce action on illegal tobacco.
Supporting a smoke-free environment
Some boroughs have used regulation or voluntary approaches to ‘de-normalise’ smoking and address passive smoking. The City of London banned smoking from playgrounds in 2014. Waltham Forest implemented a voluntary ban on smoking in children’s play areas in March 2015. Haringey is also expanding ‘smoke-free’ places.
Reducing harmful drinking through licensing
Almost all boroughs completed a London survey to baseline alcohol licensing activity. A number of London boroughs have implemented innovative approaches for Public Health responses to licensing applications, including 13 boroughs that have implemented the Public Health licensing process developed by the Safe Sociable London Partnership. PHE London has established an online licensing forum to support London boroughs to learn from each other how health factors can have the greatest influence over licensing decisions.
The City of London has developed a traffic light scheme for licensed premises. Penalty points are marked for each relevant incident that occurs and enforcement measures escalate as penalty points collect. The scheme also recognises good practice and awards credit points for any measures implemented by the licence/certificate holder to prevent or minimise subsequent problems.
Providing support for Londoners with alcohol misuse
PHE London has been supporting the commissioning, expansion and development of hospital alcohol liaison and care teams in the capital.
Hounslow Public Health is piloting an enhanced alcohol liaison service in West Middlesex University Hospital in 2015/16. A multidisciplinary team now provides a seven-day alcohol liaison service, including early mornings and late evenings.
In Camden, a newly commissioned Assertive Outreach Team is now proactively targeting frequent hospital attenders and those repeatedly admitted due to alcohol misuse in order to reduce the burden on local hospitals and support recovery in the community.