The seminar included presentations from researchers in the ARC South London’s alcohol theme and public health smoking cessation researchers. It was chaired by Dr Emily Finch, consultant addiction psychiatrist and clinical director at the South London and Maudsley NHS foundation Trust.  


Helping people to quit smoking

The first presentation was from Dr Debbie Robson, senior lecturer in tobacco harm reduction, King’s College London, and the ARC’s public health and multimorbidity theme lead. Dr Robson presented on ‘Why smoking still matters: Helping all people who smoke in south London quit for good.’ She presented an overview of how ARC research has supported the implementation and evaluation of smokefree policies across King’s Health Partners Trusts: South London and Maudsley, Guy’s and St Thomas’ and King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trusts.  

The UK Government has an ambition to reduce smoking by 5% in this country, which equates to around 300,000 smokers by 2030. However, there is a concern that it will be those with the highest smoking rates that will be left behind. These are often people with low incomes, people who experience mental illness or substance abuse, and also people who have insecure housing or are homeless.  

Our research found that uptake of support to quit or temporarily abstain from smoking has increased from 17% in 2011 to 70% in 2022 since the introduction of smokefree policies and support in our local hospitals. We also found that violence in hospitals reduced overall by 39% in the 12 months after the smokefree policy was introduced in South London and Maudsley NHS Trust.

Feedback from people who used the smoking cessation services told us that they valued receiving support in the same location as where they were receiving support for drug and alcohol use and they built positive relationships with the support staff

Dr Debbie Robson

Dr Debbie Robson, senior lecturer in tobacco harm reduction, King’s College London

Reducing harmful drinking

The next presentations were from Eileen Brobbin and Sofia Vassangi Hemrage, both doctoral researchers at King’s College London in ARC South London’s alcohol theme. 

Eileen presented research on evaluating different wearable transdermal alcohol sensors and apps, and whether these can help monitor and reduce harmful drinking.  

Eileen says: “Initial results from our research has found that people receiving alcohol dependency treatment felt like they were wearing a normal watch, and they liked that they could prove abstinence to their key worker. Staff were initially sceptical but later changed their opinions about the devices once they had seen the benefits for people using them.”  

Sofia then outlined plans for her research into psychosocial interventions to reduce alcohol harm in acute alcoholic liver disease.  

Beverly Randall, programme manager at Mosaic Clubhouse, a community group providing support for people living with mental health conditions and members of the Clubhouse shared their thoughts and insights on the topics raised, followed by questions and answers from the audience. This was followed by breakout sessions where the groups discussed the following questions: 

1.Do you have any ideas for practical actions to ensure no smoker gets left behind as the country goes smokefree?  

2. How we can work together to reduce health inequalities, especially in relation to behaviours that are often stigmatised, such as harmful drinking and smoking? 

3. What are your thoughts on using apps and electronic interventions to help reduce harmful drinking (and possibly other behaviours that impact on health)? 

Read a summary of the discussion from the breakout rooms. 

Find out more 

Presentation 1: Why smoking still matters: helping all people who smoke in south London quit for good, Dr Debbie Robson 

Presentation 2: Reducing the harm caused by alcohol: how applied health research is investigating new interventions to improve public health 

Presentation 3: Contingency management to incentivise treatment in alcohol-related liver disease, Sofia Hemrage 

Video: watch a recording of the Inside Research seminar 

Read about the work of the Nicotine Research Group at King’s College London 

Read the report: Nicotine vaping in England: 2022 evidence update main findings published by the Office for Health Improvement & Disparities and co-authored by Dr Debbie Robson    

Read the news story in The Guardian: Switch from smoking to vaping cuts health risks substantially, report finds