Smoking Campaign and useful information resources

Taken from NRAS magazine, Autumn 2011

We are all familiar with the risks associated with smoking, such as heart disease and lung cancer, however are you aware of the impact smoking can have on the development of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)?

NRAS is working in collaboration with NHS Fife and Pfizer to develop a campaign to raise awareness of the link between RA and smoking in Fife and encourage people with RA to think twice about smoking.

RA affects approximately 50,000 people in Scotland and data from the Fife Rheumatic Diseases Unit suggest that there are around 2,000 cases of RA in Fife alone. Worryingly, it is estimated that one million adults in Scotland and nearly one quarter of the population in Fife are smokers. But what’s the link?

Cigarette smoking can cause your body to produce antibodies that are strongly associated with the development of RA. If you smoke more than 20 cigarettes a day for 20 years (20 pack-years) it has been demonstrated that your chances of developing RA will be doubled. In addition, smoking can have a negative impact on the effect of your RA treatment. It has been found that smoking can reduce the effectiveness of RA treatments including anti-TNF agents and disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) Consequently, patients with RA who smoke may find that certain medications do not have the benefits they may provide to a non-smoker.

RA and Smoking - The Facts

  • Smoking can increase the risk of developing RA by 50%
  • Heavy smoking (more than 20 pack-years) can double the risk of developing RA
  • Smoking can lessen the effect of your treatment
  • RA is more severe in smokers than non-smokers

In order to create a targeted and eye catching campaign, NHS Fife and Pfizer convened a Discussion Group of healthcare professionals chaired by Dr Helen Harris, Consultant Rheumatologist at Fife Rheumatic Diseases Unit, Whytemans Brae Hospital, on 18th March to discuss the current issues and challenges around RA and smoking and review a selection of creative concepts developed by Gingernut Creative for the disease awareness campaign. It was agreed that the campaign should educate and empower patients to take control of their disease, while highlighting the support services offered by rheumatology and smoking cessation clinics in Fife.

“Many individuals with RA are not aware of the impact smoking has on their disease or the services that are available to help them”
said Dr Helen Harris. “We hope this campaign will educate people on the additional risks of smoking and empower them to make positive steps towards giving up”.

Following the Discussion Group, a detailed survey was developed and distributed by NRAS to a selection of patients in order to gain their perspective on the campaign. Participants were asked to rate six potential creative ideas according to how they made them feel and indicate their favourite and least favourite concepts. Almost half of the respondents stated that they knew nothing about the link between RA and smoking and only a quarter indicated that they suspected their smoking was worsening their RA symptoms. Interestingly, the creative concepts which provided empowering positive messages were rated more highly than the more hard-hitting concepts.

NRAS would like to take this opportunity to thank all participants for their valuable contribution to the research and time dedicated to completing the survey.

“We are delighted to be working together with NHS Fife and Pfizer to create a campaign which truly responds to the needs of patients in Fife” said Ailsa Bosworth, CEO of NRAS. “The comprehensive research we have conducted will allow us to create materials which will grab people’s attention and encourage them to have positive conversations with their healthcare professional or smoking cessation coordinator. It is over 30 years ago since I developed RA and at the time, I smoked. I do now wonder if this was the trigger, or one of the triggers which led to developing RA”.

The results of the research will be used to develop the final campaign materials including posters, flyers and leaflets over the coming months. The campaign will launch in hospitals and smoking cessation clinics in Fife mid August. Look out for updates on the campaign in future NRAS magazines!

References available on request.