Trust staff attending House of Commons to mark No Smoking Day

Posted: 13/03/24

Today, to mark No Smoking Day, two members of staff from Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW) will be attending an event at the House of Commons.

Specialist Tobacco Dependence Service Lead Kerry Apedaile and Acting Associate Nurse Director/ Community Matron Gayle Wilkinson are representing NHS mental health services at a parliamentary event in partnership between Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and the All Party Parliamentary Group, on Smoking and Health.

Nominated by ASH, the pair will be speaking to lords, ministers and other parliamentarians on the proposed legislation to support a smokefree generation and what a smokefree future could look like.

The event will involve discussing ‘Stopping the Start’, the government’s plan to create the first smokefree generation by bringing forward legislation so that people born on or after 1st January 2009 will never be legally sold tobacco products. This will prevent future generations from ever taking up smoking.

On attending the event, Kerry said: “I can’t believe I will be going to parliament. I’m excited to have this opportunity and I also feel very proud to be representing CNTW and mental health services.”

As the Trust’s Specialist Tobacco Dependence Service Lead, Kerry will be talking about the risks of smoking on people with mental health conditions.

“Most of our patients start smoking from a very young age and can be addicted for the rest of their lives,” she explained.

“People with a mental health condition die on average 10 to 20 years earlier than the general population. This is not the result of mental health, but rather due to smoking related illness.”

The group attending the event is made up of people who have been impacted by smoking, whether that is people who started smoking young and have successfully quit, someone who has been ill because of smoking or has lost a loved one as a result of smoking.

Gayle will be sharing her story at the event. She said: “As someone who started smoking at the age of 13, I have experienced how the addiction impacts every area of your life. But when you’re young you don’t necessarily think about how things will impact you in the long term. Being a smoker at such a young age wasn’t outside of the norm where I grew up. There has been huge steps forward in changing societal norms in how smoking is viewed, but there is still work to be done.

“I lost my mother to a smoking-related disease. My husband and I have both overcome a cancer diagnosis because of smoking. I’m incredibly pleased to say we have both successfully quit after over 30 years of being addicted. Making a change isn’t always easy but the results can be lifechanging.

“I’m nervous about attending the event but also feel hugely privileged to be invited, not only to be representing CNTW and our service users and families, but also for me and my own family. If sharing my story can add to the conversation and have a positive impact towards creating a smokefree generation, I’ll be there. It fills me with hope that young people will be supported through this legislation to achieve their true potential with a life free from smoking-related harms.”

Smoking can have serious implications on people with mental health conditions.

Smoking rates among people with a serious mental illness are more than three times that of the general population. These rates are also higher in our region; a worrying 41.8% of adults in the North East with serious mental illness are smokers.

Smoking is known to be the leading cause of ill health and premature mortality in the general population and is a major contributor to reduced life expectancy in people with mental health conditions.

People with serious mental illness also suffer disproportionately from multiple smoking related illnesses compared to the general population, so not only do they die younger they spend more time in poor health due to smoking.

Smoking is also known to contribute to poor mental health, including more severe symptoms of psychosis and higher rates of depression.

Gayle speaking at an event