The deadly risk of smoking to the children of Hartlepool is revealed today.
Six per cent of our town’s 11-15 year-olds are smokers - that’s 313 children who have already taken up tobacco before their 16th birthday.
The figure comes from local prevalence data which was released by Public Health England this year.
In another statistic, more than 250 youngsters in the town have to get medical help after breathing in other people’s smoke.
They need to see their GP or go to hospital for conditions ranging from wheezing to asthma.
The figures come on the very day that a new five-year action plan was launched, called Smoking Still Kills.
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.Lisa Surtees, acting director of Fresh
It calls on the Government to introduce a levy on tobacco companies to help pay for services to help people quit smoking, reducing the burden on local families as well as the local authorities and the NHS.
Research released as part of the report shows more than 95,000 households in the North East - which are living below the poverty line - still have at least one adult that smokes.
Campaign groups ASH, Fresh and their partners are now calling for a focus on prevention over treatment at a time when figures for Hartlepool also show:
l 17,270 people in the town are smokers;
l 207 Hartlepool people die from smoking each year;
l The cost of smoking in Hartlepool to the NHS is £4.1m each year;
l The cost to the local economy in workers taking sick days is £1.7m.
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.”
She added: “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. It is morally right they should be forced to make a contribution to reducing the harm caused.”
Publishing its ambitious five-year tobacco strategy Smoking Still Kills, Peter Kellner Chair of report Editorial Board and President, YouGov, commented: “The NHS is facing an acute funding shortage and any serious strategy to address this must tackle the causes of preventable ill health.”
The Smoking Still Kills report calls for:
l A new vision for the country with ambitious target of achieving five per cent smoking rates by 2035
l A new comprehensive five-year Government tobacco strategy for England.
l A new approach to funding, with an annual levy on tobacco companies to fund tobacco control.
Thankfully, Hartlepool is one of the town’s with the best records of helping people to quit smoking.