Dental Tribune UK & Ireland

Health officials demand smoke-free England to tackle oral cancer rates

By Dental Tribune International
November 28, 2019

RUGBY, UK: As part of November’s Mouth Cancer Action Month, the Oral Health Foundation is currently helping to raise awareness of oral cancer in the UK. Since recent years have seen a significant increase in mouth cancer incidence, the charity believes that encouragement to quit smoking in the next decade might help save thousands of lives.

The charity claims that mouth cancer has more than doubled in the UK in the last generation and that smoking is associated with nearly two-thirds of oral cancer cases. Smoking is said to increase a person’s chance of developing mouth cancer by over 90%. However, those who are able to quit cut their risk of such cancer almost immediately.

“Despite the number of smokers continuing to fall, it remains the leading cause of mouth cancer. Our focus must be on providing smokers with the support and information they need in order to kick tobacco for good,” said Dr Nigel Carter, OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation. Carter believes that it is crucial to end smoking in England by 2030. To achieve this goal, he says that the government must place additional funding into smoking cessation services and campaigns that discourage smoking.

New research by the Oral Health Foundation has suggested that people support the idea of a smoke-free England, since the majority of respondents (88%) in the study backed various tobacco cessation policies. Additionally, 51% of the population believe that smoking in the family home should not be allowed. Second-hand smoke in the home has been associated with meningitis and cancer, and with respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia. According to the charity, children are particularly susceptible to the effects of second-hand smoke, since they have an increased respiratory rate and less developed airways, lungs and immune systems.

“The creation of smoke-free environments from the 2007 smoking ban had a tremendously positive health impact, not only because it reduced exposure of non-smokers to second-hand smoke, but it also created an environment that stimulated people to quit,” Carter noted. “Since then, however, the culture of smoking and health policy has very much changed.”

“I believe the UK is now in a place where we can support people to be smoke-free, without enforcing more regulation. Again, this needs government to give smoking cessation services and local authorities the resources they need in order to help those in their local areas.”

Besides the link to cigarette-smoking, mouth cancer has been linked to smoking pipes and cigars, chewing smokeless and ethnic tobacco, excessive alcohol use and human papillomavirus infection.

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