More than 100 people a day are admitted to hospitals in the North East because of smoking-related illnesses, shocking new figures reveal.
The statistics, released as part of a hard-hitting New Year campaign, also show smoking has killed more than 16,000 people in the region in last three years.
The strain both on people's health and on the NHS is laid bare by the figures, which show 104 patients admitted every day and over 38,000 a year to North East hospitals as a result of smoking-related illnesses.
It comes as Public Health England (PHE) releases a new TV advert highlighting the dangers of tar in cigarettes. The latest campaign shows how poisons from tar in cigarettes enter the bloodstream, spreading to every part of the body within seconds and causing damage to all major organs.
Health campaign agency Fresh and North East chest physician Dr Robert Allcock are now urging the North East’s 390,000 smokers to give quitting another try this New Year.
Dr Robert Allcock, a respiratory consultant at the QE Hospital in Gateshead, said: “Every time someone smokes a cigarette, they inhale tar and poisons which damage the lungs, and which enter the bloodstream to cause further damage to the heart, the brain, and all the major organs of the body.
"The poisons from cigarettes cause permanent damage to DNA and increase the risk of cancer.
“I see the harm from smoking in my clinics every week. Smoking is still the biggest issue that dominates my job and the job of my colleagues, and it dominates the experiences of too many of our patients. The burden of illness and suffering that people endure as a result of tobacco remains enormous.
He added: “As a doctor one of the hardest things I do is to explain to someone that they have lung cancer caused by their smoking.
"It’s the moment when a person realises that this thing that’s been a normal part of their life for as long as they can remember is also the thing that means they are unlikely to be alive in 1 or 2 years’ time. It’s a horrible thing to see; a look of sadness and regret."
Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, said: “People are often shocked when they find out the poisons that go into the bloodstream when you light a cigarette.
“The good news is that no matter how long you’ve smoked, quitting at any age reduces your chances of developing cancer, heart and lung disease and other serious smoking related illnesses. No matter how many times you have tried to quit, it is always worth trying again and make this time the one you quit for good."
Professor Peter Kelly, centre director for Public Health England North East, said: “Smoking is a deadly addiction. Over the last three years, smoking has killed over 16,000 people in the North East and for every death, another 20 smokers have a smoking-related disease. There are around 38,000 North East smokers admitted to hospital every year due to smoking-related illnesses.
“Our new TV ad shows how every cigarette sends a flood of poisonous chemicals through the bloodstream in seconds. We are urging every smoker in the North East to take advantage of the free Smokefree support and quit for good this New Year.”
'We're going to quit after seeing that'
To help explain the ongoing internal harm being caused, a group of seven lifelong smokers – including TV presenter and entrepreneur Hilary Devey – declare their intention to quit in January after seeing the results of a lab demonstration.
The test results show how their smoking has led to elevated levels of cadmium (a metal used in batteries), cancer-causing nitrosamines and carbon monoxide in their blood. These toxic substances are amongst over 4,000 chemicals released into the body with each cigarette smoked, including more than 70 known cancer-causing compounds.
Elevated levels of these substances were seen in the participants’ blood and can lead to an increased risk of major damage to the body.
Exposure to cadmium for a long period of time is associated with an increased risk of damage to the kidneys and bones and may lead to lung cancer.
Research has shown that if you regularly smoke 20 or more cigarettes a day, you are twice as likely to develop kidney cancer compared with a non-smoker.
Tobacco Specific Nitrosamines (TSNAs) are potent chemical compounds, many of which are carcinogenic (cancer-causing). They can cause DNA damage, cell death and are associated with cancers of the pancreas, mouth, respiratory and digestive tracts.
Carbon monoxide decreases the ability of the blood to carry oxygen and consequently puts a strain on the heart. Carbon monoxide is also associated with an increased risk of blood clots and coronary heart disease.4
In the new film that supports the TV advert, Dr Dawn Harper, GP from Gloucester, explains the results of the tests to the smokers and how the quality of their blood would start to improve when they quit – ridding them of harmful poisons which cause major damage to the body. Dr Dawn advises the smokers that there are many ways to quit, including free proven support from NHS Smokefree. People can choose what works best for them: face-to-face help, stop smoking aids, a quitting app, email, social media, and SMS support. Find out more at www.nhs.uk/smokefree
Hilary Devey, TV presenter, entrepreneur and lifelong smoker, said: “I’ve smoked at least 20 a day for over forty years. Like many, I’ve been hooked on cigarettes and ignoring the damage – even though I know the harm I’m doing, I’ve found it extremely difficult to quit for good. Even a stroke three years ago only led me to stop temporarily.
“Seeing the high levels of poisonous chemicals in my blood from these tests really hit home how dangerous continuing to smoke is – and for that reason, I’m done!
“I’m absolutely determined to try again this New Year and I hope other smokers across the country will join me making full use of all the free help available at Smokefree - this time next year we could be celebrating one year smoke-free and feeling the benefits.”
Smokefree provides motivation, information and support for smokers who want to stop. Just search ‘Smokefree’ for free support and advice to help you quit smoking.