“Having worked in the homelessness sector for 10 years, I’ve been to so many funerals for people with throat and lung cancers related to smoking. That’s a huge issue, but it gets lost in the myriad of all the other issues that people face” – Community service worker.
Smoking rates in groups experiencing disadvantage are up to five times higher than the population average. These people experience a disproportionate share of the financial, social and health consequences of tobacco use, including higher rates of death and disease from tobacco-related illnesses.
People from disadvantaged groups are more likely to be in environments where smoking is the norm and where there is little support to stop smoking. Despite this, many people are very interested in addressing their smoking.
What is smoking care?
Smoking care recognises that smokers are often interested in trying to stop smoking or to give cutting down a go and can do so with the right support.
Smoking care is:
- recognising smoking as a social justice issue
- treating all smokers respectfully – a non-judgemental approach
- acknowledging the connection between smoking and its impact on someone’s other priorities or concerns – active listening
- providing choices to people
- working with people in their current situation – either helping people to stop or reduce their smoking levels to eventually stop smoking.
What can your service do to support smokers?
Social and community services can help reduce smoking-related harms for their clients and staff by providing straight forward smoking care. This will also often reinforce the other goals that your clients have, from securing long-term housing to alcohol or other drug recovery.
Here’s how to get started:
- seek strong leadership and support from management for the change
- ask people about their smoking. Are they interested in getting support? Record responses as standard practice
- refer clients and staff to Quitline 13 7848, a doctor or a local quit smoking program
- consider establishing or reviewing your smokefree policy. Download our guide Creating smokefree environments: a guide for social and community services.
- include a position on supporting access to smoking care medications such as nicotine replacement therapy in your policy. A doctor can provide a script for reduced cost patches. A four week supply is $6
- offer smoking care support to staff who smoke
- encourage staff to complete the Smoking cessation essentials training
- encourage staff to become Quit Educators, trained in running Fresh Start groups
- order and display posters and print resources
- refer staff and clients to the Quit website for information on services and smoking care medication.