The problem

Tobacco and alcohol harm health and limit life chances. But they also affect families and local communities and our public services. They drive poverty and affect businesses and the wider regional economy.

It is important to give people every encouragement to quit smoking and cut down on alcohol consumption. However we often focus too little on the global industries behind the products and causing the problems.


Smoking is still one of the main causes of death, illness and disability in the UK, causing heart disease, lung disease and more than a quarter of all cancer deaths.

Up to 2 in 3 smokers will die early from tobacco with around 64,000 deaths and over 408,000 hospital admissions in England a year.

Alcohol is linked to more than 60 medical conditions, including mouth, throat, stomach, liver and breast cancers; high blood pressure, cirrhosis of the liver and anxiety and depression.
Alcohol results in nearly 980,000 hospital admissions each year in England.

Tobacco and alcohol together cost the region’s purse nearly £3.5 billion a year in healthcare and social care costs, crime, lost earnings and lost productivity to employers and the economy.

Tobacco and alcohol fuel health inequalities and drive poverty. People in the most deprived areas are more than four times more likely to smoke than those in the least deprived areas.

They are also more likely to suffer poor health, be admitted to hospital or to die from alcohol. People in more deprived areas are also significantly more likely to suffer alcohol related violence and anti-social behaviour.

The tobacco and alcohol industries

Global alcohol and tobacco industries are large, powerful multinational corporations which have a responsibility to prioritise sales and shareholder profits over other goals.

Alcohol and tobacco industries adopt strategies and tactics that undermine effective public health policies and oppose regulation. This by nature usually puts their business aims in conflict with the aims of protecting public health.

Industry documents have revealed how tobacco companies deceived the public on health risks and have lobbied governments against regulation. Similarly alcohol companies have fiercely opposed measures such as advertising restrictions and Minimum Unit Price.

Read this study from SPECTRUM and the Smokefree Action Coalition, Alcohol Health Alliance and Obesity Health Alliance how public health professionals and health advocates can take a more integrated approach to tackling commercial determinants of health and disease.

Fresh and Balance are members of the Smokefree Action Coalition and Alcohol Health Alliance. We call for action on price, promotion and availability and regulatory frameworks which put health first.

The alcohol industry

Alcohol companies tell people to “drink responsibly” but their profits depend on people drinking above the recommended limits. People drinking above guidelines are estimated to account for 68% of total alcohol sales revenue.

Read more about the alcohol industry from the Institute of Alcohol Studies 

The tobacco industry

Smoking is an addiction which usually starts in childhood – most smokers start by the age 16 in the North East and regret ever starting.

Tobacco companies have been exposed for deliberately manipulating cigarettes in the 20th to make them more addictive to smokers and more difficult to quit. As a consequence, smokers today are at a greater risk of disease than smokers in the 1960’s, despite smoking fewer cigarettes.


Cathy Hunter sitting in her kitchen crying.

Alcohol - the cost to our region

Alice Wiseman, Director of Public Health for Gateshead and Alcohol Policy Lead for the Association of Directors of Public Health, explains how alcohol is fuelling ill health, crime and disorder in the North East and a drain on the regional economy.

The cost of smoking to the North East