Revealed: The cost of smoking to Hartlepool’s health

Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh.
Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh.

Hartlepool’s poorly smokers have put the town among England’s worst for hospital admissions.

Three thousand town people, per every 100,000 aged 35 and over, had to have hospital treatment between 2015 and 2016 for smoking-related illnesses.

Smoking is still our biggest killer and one in two lifetime smokers will die from smoking related disease, so a fall in smoking rates of this scale will save many thousands of lives in years to come. This proves that efforts to reduce smoking work

Ailsa Rutter

It’s a record which placed Hartlepool fourth in a comprehensive list of every authority in England.

Only Barnsley (3,142), Sunderland (3,084) and Blackpool (3,043) ranked higher and all of them - including Hartlepool - were way higher than the national average of 1,726.

The statistics were released in new tables published by NHS Digital titled Statistics on Smoking - England 2017.

But the figures go further. They also show the town had the third worst death rate from smoking with 416 people dying aged 35 and over. Only Middlesbrough (422) and Sunderland (423) were worse.

Yet overall, the region is winning the war to get people to quit. Smoking rates among adults in the North East fell from 18.7% in 2015 down to 17.2% in 2016.

Campaign group Fresh has welcomed the new historic low for smoking rates in the North East.

The region also had a higher fall than England for smoking rates during pregnancy, with Smoking at the Time of Delivery rates in the North East falling from 16.7% down to 16%, compared to rates in England falling from 10.6% to 10.5%.

This means across England, about one in twelve smokers quit during 2016: the percentage of people in England aged above 18 who were smokers in 2016 is 15.5% compared to 16.9% in 2015, a fall of 1.4 percentage points.

However, despite this decline, smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death.

Ailsa Rutter, Director of Fresh, said: “The region has come a long way in the last decade with more families than ever making smoking history. Back in 2005, our adult smoking rates were on 29% and these new figures show we are actually getting close to halving smoking. That’s something many people would have thought was unthinkable.”

But she added: “Smoking is still our biggest killer and one in two lifetime smokers will die from smoking related disease, so a fall in smoking rates of this scale will save many thousands of lives in years to come. This proves that efforts to reduce smoking work.”

The hugely detailed study also looked at the level of prescriptions given out in each area to people with a smoking dependency.

Figures show;

l More than 1,500 therapies were handed out in Hartlepool in 2015/16 including 866 nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs).

l In South Tyneside, the figure was 3,176 therapies and 974 NRTs.

l And in Sunderland, there were 4,673 therapies issued and 818 NRTs.

l And in the Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield area, it was 7,019 therapies and 906 NRTs.

Ailsa said: “While our rates are still too high, action is working. This fall is testament to the work of our local authorities and our NHS partners who have prioritised this issue. The last year has seen the introduction of plain, standardised packs and figures suggest this may have already had an impact on smokers.

“What is also really encouraging are discussions about the important role the NHS can play to ensure every smoker going to hospital is offered support to quit and treated for tobacco dependency”

To get underway with their own quit attempt, people should ask at their GP surgery or pharmacy, or contact their local stop smoking service for help and support:

The service for Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, and Stockton is available on (01642) 383819.

The Smokefreelife County Durham service can be contacted on 0800 772 0565.