Hundreds of South Tyneside children suffer smoking-related illnesses

Lisa Surtees, acting director of Fresh.

Lisa Surtees, acting director of Fresh.

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More than one child every day in South Tyneside is treated for illnesses caused by the smoke they breath in from other people’s cigarettes.

Around 378 youngsters in the borough need the help of their GP or hospital treatment each year after they become ill with conditions including glue ear, asthmas and wheezing.

New figures, compiled by anti-smoking campaigners Fresh, also show 6 per cent of children aged between 11 to 15 are smokers themselves across the area, with the lives of 373 claimed every 12 months by the habit.

The financial burden on the NHS has also been revelled in the statistics from Fresh, showing the NHS has to foot a bill of £6.8million a year, with the economy hit by a further £2.5million due to sickness and absentees.

South Tyneside has to pay out a further £1.9million in social care each year due to smoking, with £5.7million to be saved by the NHS and businesses in the borough each year by 2025 if the number of people smoking drops by 5 per cent.

As it stands, 25,300 of adults- 21.3 per cent - in South Tyneside smoke.

More than ever it’s the poorest people in our society who take up smoking younger and are more likely to suffer from tobacco related diseases from middle age, and the North East pays a heavy price, while the tobacco industry profits.

Lisa Surtees, acting director of Fresh

It comes as campaigners say quitting could lift 34,000 children and families out of poverty across the North East, with a new five-year action plan Smoking Still Kills calling for increased efforts to help people stub out their habit.

Fresh has also said tobacco companies should be forced to pay towards reducing smoking and ensure fewer children take up cigarettes in the first place.

The tobacco industry makes around £30 billion in profit which is more than Coca-Cola, McDonalds, and Microsoft combined.

New research from Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), the reveals that in the North East over 95,000 households who live below the poverty line include an adult that smokes.

Lisa Surtees, acting director of Fresh, said: “Every year thousands of people in the North East die or have their lives changed forever by smoking related illnesses.

“At the same time thousands of young people take up smoking, storing up a burden of ill health and premature death for the future.

“As this report makes clear we must go further and do more.

“Most smokers regret ever starting and do not want their own children to start.

“At a time when so many people are struggling, these figures show how thousands of North East families could feel better off by quitting smoking.

“More than ever it’s the poorest people in our society who take up smoking younger and are more likely to suffer from tobacco related diseases from middle age, and the North East pays a heavy price, while the tobacco industry profits.”

Fresh was the UK’s first dedicated regional programme set up in the North East in 2005 to tackle the worst rates of smoking related illness and death in England.