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Working together to make smoking history

Published November 08, 2022 4.55pm


Councils across the North East have joined forces with the NHS to help lower levels of smoking 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.

Working together to strengthen efforts 

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.

Making a real difference to the health and wellbeing of residents 

Amanda Healy, our 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."

Costs of smoking 

Fresh funding

Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh and Balance (left) and Amanda Healy, Durham County Council's Director of Public Health and Chair of the North East Director of Public Health Network.

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.

Aiming to make smoking a thing of the past 

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."