Oral health and Scotland’s Charter for Tobacco-free Generation Reply

ASH Scotland’s Charlotte McDonough writes for us about an exciting piece of work she undertook during her time as an intern with us.

Scotland’s Charter for a Tobacco-Free Generation is an initiative that has been developed to support the Scottish Government’s aim of creating a tobacco-free generation with a 5% or less smoking prevalence rate among adults by 2034. The aim of the Charter is to inspire organisations to take action to reduce the harm caused by tobacco, to raise awareness of the tobacco-free generation goal, and to support organisations whose work impacts on children, young people and families to address tobacco issues. Endorsing the Charter is a great way to help improve people’s wellbeing and it shows your commitment to making Scotland a healthier, wealthier place to grow, learn, play and work.

Of course, parents giving up smoking send a great message to children about looking after their health.

Smoking affects the entire body and its function.  More specifically, the direct contact of harmful toxins with the mouth inevitably causes serious oral health consequences.  Smokers are at higher risk of developing tooth decay, tooth staining, gum disease, and in more severe cases oral cancers.  Particularly, smoking causes approximately 65% of mouth cancers in the UK[1]; however, 91% of all oral cancers are preventable[2].

Dental care providers have a wide range of skills and are the most knowledgeable about oral health.  Dental teams are well placed to inform patients that stopping smoking is the best move they can make in support of their general wellbeing.  To support this crucial public health intervention ASH Scotland has teamed up with the Oral Health Foundation, British Dental Association and NHS Inform Scotland to design a stop smoking referral card.  Two-thirds of current smokers wish to quit smoking[3].  Thus, with such a high percentage wanting to stop smoking, the distribution of an informative referral card will provide a means for dental teams to reinforce smoking advice to their tobacco users.


According to the new Oral Health Improvement Plan released in January this year, the improvement of the oral health of Scotland cannot be tackled alone.  Currently, services are predominantly restorative-focused, but prevention-based provision with recognition of the benefits of anticipatory care is highly encouraged going forward. The broader issues that are detrimental to our oral health such as alcohol, drug, and tobacco use must be improved ambitiously but practically, too. These solutions require everyone to be involved: dental teams, third and independent sector organisations, schools, councils and Health and Social Care Partnerships to combat these challenges.  The Scottish Government’s ‘Making it Easier’ strategy iterates that the public deserves access to knowledge, skills, understanding and confidence to use health information, to be active partners in their care, and to navigate health and social care systems.  This important initiative comes at an opportune time to introduce a card to signpost smokers to stop smoking services and to ultimately make others aware of the impact smoking has on oral health and help smokers stop smoking if they want to.

Around 40 dental practices in Scotland are being invited to sign the Charter and pilot the use of the new stop smoking cards. The learning from this initiative will inform the roll-out of future initiatives to improve stop smoking support through dentistry. If you are not part of this initial trial you may still register support for the Charter by visiting www.ashscotland.org.uk/Charter.

Your dental practice could play a larger part in preventing the biggest cause of avoidable death and ill-health in Scotland. 


[1] Hashibe M et al. Interaction between tobacco and alcohol use and the risk of head and neck cancer: pooled analysis in the International Head and Neck Cancer Epidemiology Consortium. National Institute of Health 2009; 18(2): 541-550

[2] Cancer Research UK. Oral cancer statistics. [Accessed March 2017]

[3] McLean, J., Christie, S., and Gray, L.. (eds). Scottish Health Survey 2016: Volume 1: Main Report. 2017. Available from: www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Health/scottish-health-survey


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