Walsall Smokefree campaign highlights the dangers of smoking indoors

Fire damage at a home in the Black Country after a smoker fell asleep with a lit cigarette

Walsall residents are being encouraged to keep their homes smokefree following a joint campaign by Walsall Council’s Public Health Team, the local NHS and West Midlands Fire Service.

The campaign aims to increase the awareness of the hidden dangers of smoking indoors, focusing on the impact of secondhand smoke and the risk of house fires.

Many smokers still don’t realise the damage their smoke causes to those around them.

In the UK, around 2 million children are estimated to be regularly exposed to secondhand smoke in the home. Secondhand smoke is a lethal cocktail of more than 4,000 irritants, toxins and cancer-causing substances. Children who live in a household where at least one person smokes are more likely to develop asthma chest infections, meningitis, ear infections, coughs and colds.

Dr Ryan Hobson, GP at Lichfield Street Surgery in Walsall said: “With over 35,000 adults smoking in Walsall, we are concerned about the impact of secondhand smoke on children. Most secondhand smoke is invisible and odourless, so no matter how careful you think you’re being, people around you still breathe in the harmful poisons. Giving up smoking is by far the best way to protect your family and we can help you quit to give you and your loved ones a healthier future.”

Whilst the health implications of smoking are well known, many people are unaware of the unseen damage that smoking does to families.

In the West Midlands alone, almost 40% of fatal house fires are caused by smoking.

Pete Wilson, Group Manager for Prevention at West Midlands Fire Service, said: “Smoking causes the most fire-related deaths. We hope the campaign persuades as many smokers as possible to give it up because of the clear risks to themselves, their family and their home.

“Sadly, six people died in West Midlands house fires caused by smoking between April and December 2019, five of these in the Black Country.

“People often smoke in the comfort of their own home, on sofas and chairs where it’s all too easy to fall asleep and to drop the cigarette. As our firefighters know, the consequences can be horrific.

“If you’re not ready to give up smoking, then please smoke outside your home and fully extinguish the cigarette before you go back indoors. Our firefighters can offer lots of advice during a free Safe and Well visit, for you or someone whose safety you’re worried about.”

Two videos have been produced to inform local people just how dangerous smoking at home can be. The videos are available on YouTube and can be found by searching ‘Smokefree Homes Walsall’.

Across the Black Country, a ‘Smoking kills’ leaflet is being distributed by West Midlands Fire Service as part of their Safe and Well Checks. The checks offer brief advice and support to stop smoking.

Speaking about the campaign, Stephen Gunther, Director of Public Health at Walsall Council said: “We are committed to step-up efforts to encourage as many smokers in Walsall to quit and we have partnered with West Midlands Fire Service to raise awareness of the hidden dangers.

“Between 2016 to 2018, over 1000 people, in Walsall have died from smoking but this can be prevented. If you smoke, we can help you quit and support you to make your home Smokefree and keep everyone within it safe.

“If you want to give up smoking, we can help you choose the right support for you from stop smoking apps, text support and email support to one-to-one smoking advisor appointments. Telephone the Walsall Stop Smoking Service on 01922 444044 or visit oneyouwalsall.com to take the first steps to becoming Smokefree.”

Evidence shows that smokers are four times more likely to quit with support.

Smokers can visit nhs.uk/smokefree to order a free Smokefree Kit. Facts, tips and tools are also available on the website to help you on the way to a Smokefree future.