Fresh welcomes boldest Government action to reduce smoking in a generation
Fresh and a cancer survivor have warmly welcomed new moves to turn off the tap of new smokers and provide more support and encouragement for smokers to quit.
They say cigarettes are uniquely lethal and the announcements today by the Government is the boldest action in a generation to reduce the illness and death caused by smoking. Action on smoking is popular and most smokers themselves do not want their own children to get hooked.
It comes just one week on from the North East launching a UK-first public declaration for a Smokefree Future – free from the death and disease from tobacco – READ
To achieve this vision bold national action is needed and today’s announcement by the Prime Minister covered raising the legal age of sale for tobacco, doubling funding for stop smoking services, increased funding for quitting campaigns and tackling illegal tobacco.
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.
The North East has seen the largest fall in 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.
Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh and Balance said: “We warmly welcome today’s announcement – our region has seen the highest rates of smoking related illness and death in the country. It is the boldest action on smoking we have seen for many years. No other product that tobacco gets users hooked as kids and ends up killing 2 out of 3.
“We support raising the age of a sale on this uniquely lethal addiction. There is no such thing as “choice” when it comes to an addiction that most people start as children and end up wanting to quit. A life of smoking means suffering illness and incapacity younger in life.”
She added: “We vitally need to reduce illness and death in the next two or three decades – smoking rates are not falling fast enough to meet the government’s own target of 5% and we will still see all the death and disease from adults who smoke in our hospitals unless we support and encourage them to quit. We need treatment to help smokers to quit and remind them at every opportunity why it is so vital to stop.”
Former smoker Sue Mountain has undergone treatment three times for laryngeal cancer as a result of smoking. She said: “I know the heartbreak of smoking. Like most I started when I was a kid, before I realised how addictive it was. You never start out as a child imagining a specialist saying “you have cancer” or the tens of thousands of pounds wasted. That regret comes later.
“The main thing is the government is saying enough is enough. It’s not good enough to let our young people become the lung cancer and COPD patients of the future, just so cigarette companies can make billions. It might not stop everyone under that age smoking, but it will save a lot of lives. Nobody who starts smoking young ever thinks they’ll smoke for life.
“Tobacco companies are making massive profits from an addiction that robs people of their lives and their health. People like me don’t want their kids or grandchildren or any other family go through what we went through.”
Julie Bardsley, tobacco dependency specialist lead for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This is great news! We welcome today’s announcement by the prime minister to continually raise the legal age of sale for tobacco products.
“We need to protect the next generation of people from the harms of smoking. I hope this leads to a smoke free country by 2030.”
People in the North East show strong support for measures to reduce smoking with:
- 78% of adults support ending smoking with a target of fewer than 5% smoking by 2030
- 79% support making tobacco companies pay a levy to fund helping smokers quit and prevent young people from taking up smoking
- 72% support increased Government investment in public education campaigns on smoking aimed at adults and children
- 69% support raising the age of sale from 18 to 21 for tobacco
- 69% support inserts in tobacco packs encouraging smokers to quit
(ASH 2023 Smokefree GB survey carried out by YouGov)
Announcements made in the PM’s speech include:
- Legislate to raise the age of sale one year every year from 2027 onwards
- Double the funding for local authority Stop Smoking Services from next year
- Increase funding for awareness raising campaigns by £5 million this year and £15 million from next year onwards
- Increase funding for enforcement on illicit tobacco and e-cigarettes by £30 million from next year
- Launch a consultation shortly on specific measures to tackle the increase in youth vaping