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Working together to make smoking history

Councils across the North East have joined forces with the NHS to help lower levels ofsmoking and reduce its impact on the health of the population.

Smoking is one of the region’s leading causes of health inequalities and remains the single

largest cause of preventable deaths. Since 2000, over 113,000 people in the region have

died from smoking while more than four in ten households in the North East with a smoker

live in poverty.

It causes a range of illnesses including 16 different types of cancer, as well as COPD,

heart disease, dementia, strokes and diabetes.

Adult smoking has almost halved since 2005 and the North East has seen the biggest

reduction in smoking since then through its collaborative approach, which has been

recognised nationally. It is hoped an enhanced joint approach between local authorities

and the NHS will help to strengthen efforts to reduce the number of smokers to only five

per cent of the population by 2030.

Until recently, Fresh, which launched in 2005 as the region’s tobacco control programme,

was funded by local authorities in Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, South

Tyneside, Sunderland and Northumberland.

However, it will now be funded by all 12 local authorities in the region, alongside matched

funding from the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board, to help create

better outcomes for residents.

Amanda Healy, Durham County Council’s Director of Public Health and Chair of the North

East Director of Public Health Network, said: “A region wide joint commitment to tobacco

control is a huge step forward and will help us to make a real difference to the health and

wellbeing of residents across the north east. It will allow us to work together to support

smokers to quit, which is something smokers often tell us they want to do, most of them

having become addicted during childhood.

“We know that we have some of the highest smoking rates in England. However, working

together we can not only reduce these, but also reduce the burden of smoking-related

illnesses and improve the chances of all our residents, from babies to older people. There

will also be more targeted support offered to pregnant smokers as well as areas where

smoking rates are higher, for example, amongst people who work in manual jobs.”

Research shows that most smokers start as children, with rates much higher in lower

income families.

It has also been calculated that smoking costs the region a staggering £613 million per

year. This includes a cost of £45.3 million to local authorities to fund additional social care

in later life as a result of smoking-related illnesses and a £127 million cost to the NHS as a

result of more than 1.2 million GP consultations and 256,000 hospital admissions.

The additional funding will: help to support smokers to stop and stay stopped through the

delivery of mass media campaigns; ensure smokers get as many chances and options to

make successful quit attempts; help to stop children and young people taking up smoking;

reduce the demand and supply of illegal tobacco products; support further enforcement

around illicit tobacco; and ensure the needs of North East communities are heard and that

the region also benefits from an increased national focus on smoking.

With smokers spending an average of £2,000 each year on cigarettes, smoking is also a

significant cause of poverty and can put a greater financial burden on families.

Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh and Balance, said: “Smoking is our biggest

preventable killer and a tragedy to the tens of thousands of families who lose a loved one

every year. But it costs our region, our economy, our local authorities and our NHS dearly.

“The North East has a proud history of working in collaboration to address problems and

working together to make smoking a thing of the past will enable countless more adults to

live healthier lives into older age, free up precious finances for families and help more

children grow up smokefree. We are delighted that we will be supporting localities across

the whole region, in partnership with both local authorities and the NHS.”

Samantha Allen, Chief Executive for the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care

Board said: "Supporting our communities to quit smoking remains one of the single biggest

things we can do to improve the health of people living in our region. By combining our

collective resources and working in partnership we can build on the great work already

happening in our region to achieve our ambitious goal to reduce smoking prevalence from

13 per cent of people aged over 18 to 5 per cent or below by 2030.”

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health, said: “The North East

has been a trailblazer for effective public health delivery in the UK, by setting up Fresh to

tackle the region’s biggest killer, smoking. And with the support of Fresh, the region has

achieved a faster percentage point decline than any other region, nearly halving smoking

rates since it was set up in 2005. 

“But smoking-related illness, disease and deaths are still too high especially in the most

disadvantaged regions like the North East. The disease disability and premature death

caused by smoking damages not just the population’s health and wellbeing, but also

inhibits economic growth, while the cost of smoking drives households into poverty.

“Local authorities and NHS leaders in the North East are to be commended for recognising

that the scourge of smoking can only be ended by working in partnership together.”

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