Council supports No Smoking Month 

25th March 2019

March is No Smoking Month and Fermanagh and Omagh District Council is reminding everyone of the support and advice available to help people to stop smoking and of the smoke free and tobacco control legislation which the Council has a duty to enforce.

Smoking is estimated to cause over 2,300 deaths in Northern Ireland each year and is the leading cause of preventable illness and premature deaths.

Fermanagh and Omagh District Council undertakes a range of statutory duties and offers a number of services in relation to smoking cessation and tobacco control to help promote improved wellbeing of Fermanagh and Omagh residents.

For this No Smoking Month, the Chairman of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Councillor Howard Thornton, joined primary school pupils from St Mary’s Primary School, Killesher and Florencecourt Primary School, Co. Fermanagh and Christ the King and Gibson Primary Schools in Omagh along with representatives from Cancer Focus NI, local GP practices and pharmacies, the Western Health and Social Care Trust (WHSCT) and the Public Health Agency (PHA) to launch Cancer Focus NI’s new schools smokefree champion ‘Buster’ – who will be visiting schools throughout Northern Ireland as part of the charity’s ‘Smokebusters’ schools programme – and to promote the PHA’s Smoke Free School Gates programme.

Speaking about No Smoking Month, Chairman of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Councillor Howard Thornton, said:

“The Council is committed to ensuring that the health and wellbeing of all the people of the Fermanagh and Omagh District is as good as it can be. Smoking cessation is one way in which we can achieve that, and I am delighted to see the launch of Cancer Focus NI’s smokefree champion ‘Buster’ and to support the PHA’s Smoke Free School Gates initiative, to encourage children and adults to make healthy choices.”

Mr. Gerry McElwee, Head of Cancer Prevention, Cancer Focus NI, said:

“Cancer Focus NI has been a leader in the field of smoking prevention for over 30 years. Our ‘Smokebusters’ programme, which is supported by the PHA, empowers P6 and P7 pupils to develop a range of skills so that they can remain non-smokers and protect themselves from the dangers of second-hand smoke.”

Mr. David Coffey, Principal, Florencecourt Primary School, said:

“As a school we are thrilled to be able to be involved in the launch of Buster. Smokebusters is a valuable resource which is available to all primary schools in Northern Ireland.  Our P7 pupils thoroughly enjoyed the interactive experience provided by a range of organisations involved in the area of tobacco control.”

Mr. Eugene Dolan, Principal, St. Mary’s Primary School, Killesher, said:

“We are delighted to be involved in the Smokebusters programme and that Buster has visited our area. We are especially delighted to have Buster’s involvement as the school joins up to the PHA’s Smoke Free School Gates initiative.”

Ms. Roisin Darcy, Principal, Christ the King Primary School, Omagh said:

“We at Christ the King Primary School have been delighted to participate in the Cancer Focus Schools Programmes for a number of years. The teaching materials are informative, fun and innovative and the visits from the specialists are always excellent. We promote healthy living, exercise and nutrition in our school on a daily basis and encourage our pupils to make healthy choices. We will continue to promote the Cancer Focus Schools Programme in the future.”

Mr. Keith Sterritt, Principal, Gibson Primary School, Omagh, said:

“As a school we value the area of health promotion and believe in all initiatives that promote this.  We are delighted to link with Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Cancer Focus Northern Ireland, the Public Health Agency and local organisations as they carry out this excellent work”.

Speaking about the PHA’s Smoke Free School Gates initiative, Ms. Caroline Ogilvie, Health Improvement Officer, PHA, said:

“Smoking initiation is associated with a wide range of risk factors including parental and sibling smoking, so we hope that these signs will remind parents and or guardians of the dangers of smoking and the impact it can have both mentally and physically to their children and encourage them to stop smoking.

This signage is not a ban, rather a polite request to encourage adults not to smoke in areas primarily used by children.  In line with the Public Health strategy “Making Life Better” if we are to empower healthy living and give every child the best possible start in life then we need to reduce the numbers of young people taking up smoking and it is vital that we reduce children’s exposure to smoking wherever we can.

We would encourage schools not currently participating in the initiative, to consider this simple but effective strategy to protect our young people and to get in touch with the PHA’s Health Improvement Division.”

Smoke free legislation was introduced to Northern Ireland in 2007 to protect the public and workers from the serious effects of second-hand smoke. It makes it a criminal offence to smoke in enclosed and substantially enclosed workplaces and public places, public transport, and in work vehicles that are used by more than one person.

Fermanagh and Omagh District Council Tobacco Control Officers undertake an active advisory and enforcement programme with regards to smoke-free legislation and routinely visit a range of premises to enforce the legislation. The Officers also enforce tobacco control legislation regarding underage sales and carry out test purchasing exercises within the district to check for compliance.

In support of the smoke-free legislation the Council operates a smoke-free policy within all council premises and vehicles and which also prohibits the use of vaporisers and nicotine containing products (NCPs) such as electronic cigarettes, which replicate smoking behaviour.

The Council also provides a signposting service to information, help and advice for those wishing to stop smoking, with a range of support available locally from pharmacies, GP practices and the WHSCT Smoking Cessation Nurse Specialist.

Speaking on behalf of GP Practices in Omagh Hospital and Primary Care Complex, Dr. Quinn, Grange Family Practice, said:

“We are delighted to be involved in raising awareness of the smoking cessation services available to local people in the area. We work in partnership with local pharmacies, the Smoking Cessation Nurses and the Public Health Agency to encourage and support people to give up smoking. Don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today. Quit now if you can – if at first you don’t succeed, try again.  The health benefits to giving up smoking are significant.”

Representing local community pharmacies, Mr. Gerry Hackett, Slevin’s Chemist, Omagh, said:

“Stop Smoking Services are available in most, if not all, community pharmacies within the District.  Smokers are four times more likely to quit smoking with support and advice that is available within their local pharmacy”.

Mr. Ciaran Brady, Brady’s Pharmacy, Florencecourt, said:

”Your local Community Pharmacy is one of the most accessible health professionals in the health service, we are available without an appointment, 6 days a week. The pharmacy run PHA funded stop smoking service has helped thousands of individuals give up smoking and continues to do so every day. We are available to guide you through the 12-week programme with the right products for you and to give the emotional support needed as well. ”

Ms. Josie Hughes, WHSCT Smoking Cessation Nurse Specialist, said:

“Most smokers underestimate the effectiveness of professional help, but more people succeed with our Specialist Stop Smoking service than any other way.  I would encourage anyone motivated to stop smoking to come along to regular meetings for one-on-one help- the sooner you stop, the sooner your health will start to improve”.

To find out more about smoking cessation, smoke free and tobacco control legislation please contact Fermanagh and Omagh District Council’s Environmental Health service on 0300 303 1777 or text phone 028 8225 6216. You can also visit the PHA’s website where you can find useful tips to stop smoking and order a “Quit Kit” free of charge which will help you plan your quit attempt.