08/03/2023 - Permalink

No Smoking Day: Smokers unaware that quitting smoking will reduce risk of dementia

Related topics: Adult social care / Health / Partner organisations

Smokers in Shropshire are being urged to give quitting a go this No Smoking Day today (Wednesday 8 March 2023), as research shows those who smoke are more likely to develop dementia.

An outstretched hand in a 'stop' gesture in front of a cigarette

The annual awareness day encourages smokers to make a quit attempt and this year’s theme is ‘stopping smoking protects your brain health’.

According to Alzheimer’s Research UK, dementia is the most feared health condition for people over the age of 55 – more than any other life-threatening disease including cancer and diabetes.[1]

Yet YouGov data [2] commissioned by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) revealed 18% of people who smoke know that smoking increases the risk of dementia, compared to 70% who know that smoking causes lung diseases or cancers.

Smoking raises the risk of developing dementia [3], particularly Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, as it harms the vascular system (heart and blood vessels) and the brain. [4]. Studies also suggest that quitting smoking reduces this risk substantially [5], and smoking has been identified as one of twelve risk factors that, if eliminated entirely, could collectively prevent or delay up to 40% of dementia cases.[3]

However, data from Alzheimer’s Research UK show only a third of UK adults know there are things they can do to help reduce their risk of dementia [1], and stopping smoking is one of them.

Cecilia Motley, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for public health, adult social care and communities, said:-

“We all know that quitting smoking is one of the most effective ways to improve lung and heart health, but the link to Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia might surprise some people. Quitting is not easy but the reasons to do so continue to grow. We encourage people who smoke to visit the NHS and NHS Better Health websites for information and resources to help.”

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), who is helping to co-ordinate this year’s No Smoking Day, said:-

“Quitting smoking is one of the best ways to improve your health. It has been shown to reduce the risk of developing dementia, heart disease, cancer and stroke. You experience health benefits within weeks of stopping, breathing easier and feeling fitter.

“No Smoking Day is the perfect time to quit smoking when thousands of other people are stopping too. There are many ways to stop, from nicotine replacement therapy to vaping, and free local support to stop smoking. Smokers are three times more likely to succeed in quitting with help from a trained professional than with willpower alone.”

Hilary Evans, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:-

“Just a third of people realise that we can take steps to help reduce our risk of developing dementia in later life. This has to change, which is why improving people’s understanding of the things that they can do to shape their brain health is a real priority for Alzheimer’s Research UK.

“We’re delighted to be working alongside ASH to shine a light on the link between smoking and brain health. We hope the positive message that quitting smoking at any point can help reduce your dementia risk gives people who smoke fresh motivation to quit this No Smoking Day.”

Shropshire Council can support people to make lifestyle changes that benefit their health through their social prescribing programme. To find out more and make a self-referral, visit the website. 

You can also visit www.nhs.uk/better-health/quit-smoking/ to find out where you can get free access to the latest quitting smoking aids, apps, information, one-to-one advice, and local support. 

[1] Alzheimer’s Research UK.  Public attitudes towards dementia. 2021.
[2] ASH Smokefree GB Adult Survey. Total sample size was 13,088 respondents. The online survey was undertaken between 16th February – 21st March 2022. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults
[3] Livingston G, Huntley J, Sommerlad A, Ames D, Ballard C, Banerjee S, Brayne C, Burns A, Cohen-Mansfield J, Cooper C, Costafreda SG. Dementia prevention, intervention, and care: 2020 report of the Lancet Commission. The Lancet. 2020 Aug 8;396(10248):413-46.
[4]  Tobacco use and dementia. WHO tobacco knowledge summaries. 8 July 2014
[5] “Former smokers did not show an increased risk of all-cause dementia (RR 1.01, 95% CI 0.96-1.06), AD (RR 1.04, 95% CI 0.96-1.13) and VaD (RR 0.97, 95% CI 0.83-1.13).” 2015 meta-analysis – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25763939/