In a guest blog, Ceri Cadogan, a Health Improvement Practitioner – Tobacco for Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP), talks about the links the Smokefree Service has established with the Parkhead Trussell Trust Foodbank to widen engagement and reach of their service and planting the seed on the benefits of stopping smoking.
The Trussell Trust recently reported that foodbank use in Scotland is on the increase with figures for April 2015 showing that individuals using foodbanks has risen by two thirds, with foodbanks in Glasgow alone being used 18,000 times. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-32400308).
Glasgow City HSCP North East Tobacco Team has been building strong relationships with the Foodbanks in the North East of Glasgow.
As well as supplying food parcels, The Trussell Trust Foodbanks offer a relaxing, non judgemental environment with a friendly face, cup of tea, one (or two) biscuits and a chat. The Foodbank volunteers have a wealth of knowledge about the local community and are able to signpost individuals to other services.
Tara MacGuire (Foodbank Project Co-ordinator) has always been keen to engage external bodies to contribute to the Trussell Trust Centres. This really gives service users the opportunity to address any other needs that they may have and consequently prevent them from having to use a foodbank in the future.
I represent Smokefree Services once a month at the Parkhead Foodbank (Calton Church). I am there to signpost, give information about our service and answer any smoking related questions from the staff or service users. I am also partial to a few cups of tea.
We donate a number of bags displaying our Smokefree Services logo to the foodbanks. This appears to be a great help since the 5p charge for plastic bags was introduced in Scotland in October 2014.
From my observations, the majority of service users accessing the foodbank are smokers. In addition, many are unaware that our free, relaxed, informal services exist and take place each week at a Health Centre or Community venue, usually in close proximity to where they live.
If we assume that 34% of those using the foodbanks in Glasgow are in the 20% most deprived areas and smoke on average 20 cigarettes a day, support to stop smoking could help in a year make financial savings of over £1.8million. The savings in terms of health improvements for the individual is priceless.
Throughout the North East of Glasgow we deliver weekly Stop Smoking support sessions. Most smokers are aware of the danger to their health and reminded of the money spent on cigarettes when they buy their daily packet of cigarettes.
“We don’t even get 20 fags in a pack now, its 18 or 19” is something that I am told repeatedly.
It has been 10 years since smoking was banned in public places. Whilst this ban has resulted in many individuals making quit attempts, it has left many smokers feeling victimised and that their only pleasure is being taken away from them.
Smoking can be a sensitive and emotive subject in communities. People are aware they should not smoke and more often than not want to stop. However, it is never as simple as just ‘stopping’. Unfortunately, the false perception that smoking has a calming impact still exists and is a common barrier to preventing individuals stop.
It is not unusual for smokers in the North East of Glasgow to have started at a young age. As we know tobacco is a very addictive substance and people can become dependent very quickly.
Most smokers have tried numerous times to stop and are told repeatedly to stop by family members and health professionals yet struggle to do so. Combine this with having to attend a foodbank to feed yourself and/or your family and still managing to smoke and sensitivity rises.
The main and obvious point is that individuals attend a foodbank due to their requirement for food for themselves and/or their families. If our Smokefree Services can support smokers to stop and as a result improve finances and health we are really making a difference.
The Scottish Government has set up a short life working group that is tasked with making recommendations for actions required to eradicate food poverty in Scotland. One way might be extending the provision of services and support offered through food banks, where having a one-stop-shop for referrals to access a variety of health, social and financial support can be provided.
Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership can be contacted on 0141 201 9832.