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Half century decline in smoking

ONLY around one in 7 people in the North East now smoke, according to new figures out this week.

 

As smoking continues to fall, 15.3% of adults in the North East are now smokers – around 325,000 people – according to the study by the Office for National Statistics.

 

It also means the North East has seen the biggest fall in smoking in England since 2005 when 29% of adults, or 581,000 people smoked. That is a fall of 47.2% - larger even than the South East of England.

 

Fresh – the region's tobacco control programme – say the change is all the more remarkable given how deep-rooted smoking has been in many communities in the North East. But is still the biggest preventable killer causing over 77,000 deaths a year in England and a key driver of health inequalities.

 

Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh, said: "Reducing smoking rates has been a huge collaborative achievement, especially for the North East where smoking was a normal part of life in many communities and families.

 

"Back in the 1960s and 1970s, it is estimated more than half of people smoked. It was a time when tobacco companies enjoyed absolute freedom and were fiercely advertising to encourage more women to smoke.

 

"We have reduced smoking through a series of vital measures which have taken over half a century after the lung cancer risks were proven. Removing advertising, smokefree law, raising the age of sale to 18, standardised plain packaging, free stop smoking services and running media campaigns, amongst others, have been pivotal, despite tobacco companies fighting each and every one."

 

She added: "Despite all this, smoking remains our biggest preventable killer with 15 people in the North East dying each day from tobacco. We celebrate countless stories each day of people enjoying new freedoms from quitting smoking, but let's not forget the pain of people losing their loved ones.

 

"Since the start of the pandemic we have also seen an increase in smokers trying to quit. Public support is incredibly high for action to reduce smoking. We need more action at national level now to make further progress. It's way overdue now that the tobacco companies should be made to pay for the damage they are doing and we are calling on the national government to introduce a polluter pays levy."

 

 

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