The true cost of smoking

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A STAGGERING one-in-four people in Hartlepool smoke – with £3.7m spent every year treating them.

And shocking figures also reveal 254 pregnant women were still smoking at the time they gave birth last year.

A “stark” report by anti-smoking lobby FRESH also revealed:

• 18,000 people regularly smoke in Hartlepool. That’s 24.7 per cent of the adult population;

• Around 164 people die each year in the town from smoking;

• 23 per cent of Hartlepool women were recorded as smoking at the time they gave birth in the last year;

• The cost of hospital admissions to treat smoking-related problems is £1.9m a year.

And yet there’s still good news too because Hartlepool has one of the best records in the country for getting smokers to quit.

The statistics have come from anti-smoking group FRESH, working in partnership with Brunel University, combined with existing statistics from the North East Public Health Observatory.

In County Durham there are 103,700 smokers, which equates to 24.8 per cent of people, and there are 868 deaths from smoking each year, which equates to 290.2 deaths every 100,000 people.

There are no specific figures for east Durham.

FRESH director Ailsa Rutter told the Hartlepool Mail: “The figures send out a powerful message.

“Hartlepool is doing really well and it has an excellent Stop Smoking service. Some of its work has been groundbreaking.

“But the message is still that smoking is going to remain the biggest killer in Hartlepool for some time.

“The reality is that cigarettes kill half of all its long-term users. We have to provide support for smokers to stop, but we also have to turn off the tap to a new generation of smokers.”

The Hartlepool figure of 24.7 per cent of adults smoking compares to 21 per cent in the North-East and also nationally.

Smoking leaves the North -East with a legacy of 4,211 deaths every year, according to latest NHS estimates.

The habit is responsible for almost 90 per cent of deaths from lung cancer, 80 per cent of deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder and 17 per cent of deaths from heart disease.

Ms Rutter added: “The North East has had the highest drop in smoking nationwide, but we still need to do more when smoking causes such incredible damage to families and communities and costs every individual, every family, every GP surgery, every council, business and hospital.”

Hartlepool’s smoking death rate equates to 316.1 deaths per every 100,000 people living in town.

It is higher than the North- East average of 282.5, and significantly higher than the England average of 216.

Carole Johnson, head of health improvement for NHS Hartlepool, said: “If you look back at the figures down the years, our life expectancy for women, which was the worst in the country, is now the same as the average for England.

“We are a sucess story for getting people to quit smoking.

“We have been among the best in the country for the last five or six years. There is still a lot of work to be done but we are getting there.”

Figures for the North East show a £210m toll caused by lives lost, illness and the burden on family finances.

But it was not just the NHS and taxpayers who bore the cost of smoking.

Company bosses in the region were losing around £70m a year through the 335,000 days which smokers took off work in absenteeism.

Ross Smith, head of policy for the North East Chamber of Commerce, said: “This report demonstrates the economic cost and the staggering impact smoking has on regional businesses.”

Stockton and Hartlepool NHS Stop Smoking Service can be contacted on (01642) 383819. Alternatively, people can phone the national Smoking Helpline 0800 012 1612 or visit www.smokefree.nhs.uk