The Westminster Libraries Health Information Project supported national No Smoking Day at Church Street Library last week with posters, leaflets, fridge magnets and scratch cards (they reveal how much money you save when you quit – neat!) from the NHS and charities such as the British Heart Foundation, Stroke Association, British Lung Foundation and a local youth support group MCWG.
MCWG (Making Communities Work and Grow) is a group that works on promoting the social inclusion of disadvantaged young people. They also help them steer clear of bad health habits, including alcohol and drug use. Ahmed from MCWG gave out information on the dangers of smoking shisha.
Shisha is the smoking of concentrated, often fruit flavoured, tobacco using a large ‘hookah’ type water pipe. The cooled smoke can be inhaled deeply increasing the absorption of tar, nicotine and dangerous chemicals. It is very popular with young people, especially those born in England as it can be seen as a ‘glamourous’ way of keeping in touch with their roots. Shisha smokers also tend to share mouthpieces resulting in transmission of TB, mononucleosis and herpes as well as the common cold and flu viruses. [More info on Shisha and health here]
Ahmed was joined by Ben from the NHS oral and dental health team. Ben brought gruesome pictures of mouths ruined by tobacco use. They were joined by an NHS smoking cessation specialist from the local Lisson Green health centre Stop Smoking Clinic. He brought along two gorgeous jars of gunk – one of tar and one of phlegm. Ewwww.
We were offering the public carbon monoxide tests – the normal reading for a non smokier is between 1 and 3, but we got readings of 25 and up from local shisha smokers, who can ingest the equivalent of up to 200 cigarettes in a two hour fruit-flavoured shisha session.
The stalls also attracted cigarette smokers who were looking at the great selection of books on stopping smoking that Alison, the librarian at Church Street, had put on display. I supplemented this with more books from Paddington Library. The NHS smoking cessation specialist recommended that books were best used together with advice and help from a health professional. Libraries are pleased to be able to offer customers the opportunity of accessing these vital public health services during the course of the regular health events in Westminster Libraries. Eleven smokers signed up for an individual assessment with the option of joining support groups or having individual one to one support from a health professional. Twenty five customers or more took literature after having had a carbon monoxide test.
I asked the visiting health promotion specialists which books they would recommend as helping in the fight against being a smoker. The books that came out on top were Allen Carr’s book The Easy Way to Stop Smoking which we mentioned last week, and a book called Stop smoking now with mindfulness and acceptance by Pavel G Somov.
The public were very happy to engage with the health professionals in the community atmosphere of Church Street Library.