‘A quarter of town smoke’

ALMOST a quarter of Hartlepudlians are now hooked on cigarettes.

Figures show that 23.5 per cent of Hartlepool’s population are smokers – a two per cent rise from 2011 to 2012.

And today – on national No Smoking Day – health chiefs urged people to quit, to elongate their lives, save money and be healthier.

The statistics released by the Public Health Observatories show the hike in Hartlepool smokers is 3.5 per cent higher than the average across England. The numbers also highlight how much worse Hartlepool’s smoking habit is than elsewhere in the country, with just 13.2 per cent across England and 21.3 per cent in County Durham.

The grim numbers follow celebratory news in August 2011 when Hartlepool was named second best town in the whole country for the amount of people kicking the habit, with 1,411 people packing in. It meant a 0.5 per cent rise in town quitters between March 2010 and April 2011 compared to the previous 12 months.

Pat Marshall, service manager at Stockton and Hartlepool Stop Smoking Service run by North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, said: “People have the best chances of quitting smoking if they visit their local NHS stop smoking service, and our service has an excellent reputation in Hartlepool. We’re encouraging people to try to stop today.”

Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh Smoke Free North East Fresh - the UK’s first dedicated regional programme tackling the worst rates of smoking in the country, said: “These profiles underline the fact that smoking is still our biggest killer and cause of health inequalities. The burden it creates on families, communities and local areas is huge. On the plus side, it is encouraging to see that the overall rate of smoking-related deaths is falling in the North East to be closer to the national average, and more people quitting is having a real impact on the lives of former smokers and their families.

“The North East is once again highlighted as having the highest number of quitters per 100,000 smokers.”

She added: “However, the fact remains that the greatest burden of smoking-related ill-health still falls on people living in our poorest areas.” Information on local services is available on www.nth.nhs.uk/stopsmoking or by phoning (01642) 383819.