A vital step to create a smokefree generation
Fresh has welcomed the launch of a UK-wide Government consultation to stop the start of new smokers as a vital step to create a smokefree generation.
Tobacco is the single most important entirely preventable cause of ill health, disability and death in the country, responsible for 64,000 deaths in England a year. No other consumer product kills up to two-thirds of its users.
The timing of this also follows closely from the North East launching a UK-first public declaration for a Smokefree Future – free from the death and disease from tobacco –read Declaration for a Smokefree Future
The Government has launched an eight week consultation across the UK from today and proposals being consulted on include (list from DHSC press release):
- Making it an offence for anyone born on or after 1 January 2009 to be sold tobacco products
- Restricting the flavours and descriptions of vapes so that vape flavours are no longer targeted at children – we want to ensure this is done in a way that continues to support adult smokers to switch
- Regulating point of sale displays in retail outlets so that vapes are kept out of sight from children and away from products that appeal to them, such as sweets
- Regulating vape packaging and product presentation, ensuring that neither the device nor its packaging is targeted to children
- Consider restricting the sale of disposable vapes linked to the rise in vaping in children.
- Exploring further restrictions for non-nicotine vapes and other nicotine consumer products such as nicotine pouches
- Exploring whether increasing the price of vapes will reduce the number of young people using them
- Introducing new powers for local authorities to issue on-the-spot fines (Fixed Penalty Notices) to enforce age of sale legislation of tobacco products and vapes.
- Most smokers start as teenagers with 83% smoking before the age of 20  and the average age of North East smokers starting being just 14 
- ¾ of smokers would never have started if they had the choice again 
- Smokers who start younger have higher levels of tobacco dependency and suffer a worse risk of lung cancer and heart disease during their lives 
- 78% of North East adults support ending smoking with a target of fewer than 5% smoking by 2030 
Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh and Balance, said: “We warmly welcome today’s consultation launched by the Government. Action on smoking is needed given the scale of harms, and we know from countless polling within the region and talking to communities, it’s wanted too. We know it can work given the progress we have made over the last two decades in halving overall adult smoking in the region.
“Tobacco must be treated differently – it’s the only product where people get addicted as children, taking away any “adult choice” and it is time to give our next generation a better life with decisive and bold action across the UK”.
Fresh welcomed the announcement by the Government last week as “the boldest action on smoking in a generation” which covered raising the age of sale and also included doubling funding for stop smoking support, increased funding for media campaigns and for trading standards enforcement around illicit tobacco and vaping.
Amanda Healy, Durham County Council’s Director of Public Health and Chair of the Association of Directors of Public Health North East Network, said: “We support all efforts now to reach the aim of getting smoking down to 5% by 2030, but that long term aim has to be 0% to improve the life chances for people in the North East.
“We will be encouraging all our partners to respond to this consultation. Smoking is still our biggest killer and costs the region around £1 billion a year in health and social care costs, fires and impact to the economy. We now have a chance to make a once-in-a-generation difference.
“It is also important that we address the many concerns around children and young people vaping and we will look carefully at the options under consideration and support urgent action to look at the price, marketing and packaging of these products to reduce their appeal to children.”
Neil O’Brien, Executive Medical Director for North East North Cumbria NHS ICB, said: “We are proud to have endorsed the recent North East Declaration for a Smokefree Future and recognise that smoking is still our key driver of health inequalities and the many illnesses smoking causes puts a significant pressure every day on our NHS.
“We welcome all action to support smokers to stop recognising it’s a childhood addiction and that most people do want to stop but it can be hard without the right support. Any additional investment in this is to be welcomed.”
John McClurey, a retired newsagent from Newcastle, said: “I lost my dad to lung cancer when he was 66, so I know the pain smoking causes and the impact it has had on my family. The small amount of profit a shopkeeper makes from tobacco is nothing compared to the wider misery it causes.
“As a shopkeeper I used to find it hard selling cigarettes to customers. I would have rather sold birthday cards than sympathy cards for people who died too early from smoking. We need to say goodbye to smoking for tomorrow’s generation and I firmly support all action.”
Sue Mountain former smoker has undergone treatment three times for laryngeal cancer as a result of smoking. She said: “The main thing is the government is saying enough is enough. This is all about a better life for our children and grandchildren – free of waking up needing a cigarette, free of the costs and free of the health risks.
“I started smoking as a kid, before I realised how addictive it was. Nobody who starts smoking young ever thinks they’ll smoke for life. It might not prevent everyone starting to smoke, but it will stop a lot of people and save them from dying needlessly early.”
Dr Ruth Sharrock, a respiratory consultant and Clinical Lead for Tobacco for the North East and North Cumbria NHS ICB, said: “The effects of smoking are devastating on our hospital wards, on families and communities. Nobody who has ever seen a patient with lung cancer or struggling for breath with COPD would ever want this for our children.
“Evidence suggests that people who start to smoke as children are more addicted and have an overall greater risk of lung cancer. This in itself is enough to say we have to end the harm here.”
The North East has seen the largest fall in adult smoking rates in England since 2005 with smoking more than halving from 29% of adults smoking in 2005 to 13.1% smoking in 2022. But tobacco still costs the North East nearly £1 billion a year in medical, health and social care, lost earnings and smoking-related unemployment. 
Smoking is still currently the largest cause of cancer – behind one in four cancer deaths – and leads to almost one hospital admission every minute with over 117,000 deaths in the North East since the year 2000.
 Policy paper: Stopping the start: our new plan to create a smokefree generation. 5 October 2023
 Independent survey of 757 smokers North East and North Cumbria, February-March 2023 by Fresh.
 ASH 2023 Smokefree GB survey carried out by YouGov
 The ASH Ready Reckoner is a cost calculator showing the costs of smoking to society at national, regional, and local authority levels https://ash.org.uk/resources/view/ash-ready-reckoner
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