RAF Families Federation Team

Monday 25th May 2020

As part of May’s Health Month at the RAF Families Federation, Wg Cdr Sharon McMillan (SO1  Wellbeing & Resilience) offers advice on alcohol and tobacco usage.


Alcohol has been a part of the UK culture for centuries. Many of us enjoy a drink – but whether it was a  few in the pub after work a couple of times a week, some beers on the sofa watching the football or regular wine with our dinner – it’s all too easy to let our drinking creep up on us, with the majority of us managing social drinking in moderation. 

Since 2008 alcohol consumption has been declining. Some of this decline is due to more adults choosing to be teetotal, as well as fewer under 18’s drinking alcohol.  It’s the people who already tend to drink less that are cutting back, while those who are at high risk of health conditions, because they drink heavily, are drinking more now than they did before. 

Some misuse alcohol despite the advice provided, alcohol is the fifth leading cause of death and disability globally. The cost of alcohol-related harms in the UK has been estimated at £21 billion a year.  Regular drinking also increases the amount of calories consumed and can contribute to weight gain and obesity. Evidence from behavioural science suggests that simple and easy ways of helping people to change their behaviour are the most effective.  Setting yourself a target of having more drink free days every week is an easy way to drink less and reduce the risks to your health.

Useful resources to reduce alcohol consumption:

DrinkAware provide resources and advice to help people make better choices about drinking.

The Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust has produced a self help guide around alcohol use.


Smoking continues to be the most significant public health challenge in the UK as a whole and in the UK Armed Forces specifically.  The severe long-term health consequences of smoking are well known: smoking kills over 200 people a day in England. 

Smoking has significant and immediate implications for the wellbeing of our people, contributing to poor respiratory wellbeing, low aerobic fitness, flexibility, strength and musculoskeletal injury which are common factors for medical discharge.  Smokers are at  25% greater risk of breaking a bone, increasing the risk of medical downgrade.  As agreed by Secretary of State in February 2018 and in-line with wider Government policy, Defence has chosen to introduce a Smoke Free Working Environment by 2022.  This is a key commitment of the Defence Smoking and Tobacco Control Strategy 2017-2022 and will play a major role in reducing smoking prevalence amongst our people.

Get help becoming smoke-free:

NHS Smokefree - Join the millions of people who have used Smokefree support to help them stop smoking. Serving personnel can also access smoking cessation services from the Medical Officer.

The A-Z of Wellbeing toolkit includes a range of wellbeing topics, presented in a novel and easy to read way, and includes various ideas and suggestions that you can try by yourself or with your teams.

Public Health England resources

Public Health England offer a comprehensive range of free resources to help promote healthy lifestyles  These include guides on:

  • becoming smoke-free
  • drinking less

Further information on health and wellbeing

This story comes to you as part of the RAF FF’s themed month of May for all things relating to health and wellbeing. The website also provides a good reference section on all things health-related. You can also sign up to our (free) weekly eBulletin and/or quarterly Envoy magazine to keep yourself up to date with information on new initiatives as they go live.

Health and Wellbeing themed image of two people sitting on the top of a mountain with their feet crossed, looking out across an amazing view

Featured photo by Marcelo Jaboo from Pexels

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