Millions of families lives have been wrecked by smoking. Support a smokefree generation
For Lung Cancer Awareness Month, two smoking survivors have called on people and organisations around the country to back government action to create a smokefree generation.
Cathy Hunt, a mum of four from County Durham, and Claire Oldfield, a hairdresser from Whitley Bay are former smokers who were both diagnosed with lung cancers at the age of 49, involving painful and extensive surgery.
They are calling on partners across the NHS and local authorities, as well as families across the country affected by smoking, to support plans set out in the Kings Speech to raise the age to ever be legally sold tobacco. The landmark legislation would mean any child turning 14 this year or younger will never legally be sold cigarettes in England.
It is now less than two weeks until the national consultation which is calling for responses closes on 6th December. 78% of North East adults support ending smoking with a target of fewer than 5% smoking by 2030 (YouGov).
In the UK, Cancer Research figures have estimated that 34771 people die in the UK each year from lung cancer and 48,549 people are diagnosed. Earlier in the year it was also revealed women will overtake men for lung cancer diagnoses in 2022-24 for the first time. Although smoking rates started to fall among men from the 1970s, more women were taking up smoking with fierce marketing by tobacco companies aimed at women.
Cathy Hunt was diagnosed with lung cancer and had half a lung removed in 2015 just two days before her 50th birthday. She underwent surgery again in 2022 when the cancer returned, and in June 2023 had a kidney removed due to cancer.
Cathy said: “Millions of families lives have been wrecked by people becoming ill and dying from smoking. It was only when I found out I had lung cancer that I stopped smoking, and even then quitting was the best thing I could do. But this is exactly why you need to stop more people getting that to that awful stage.
“I am delighted the government wants to raise the age of sale for tobacco. It is vital we protect our children from the harm cigarettes cause. The pain, the surgery and the worry of lung cancer is the last thing I want for my daughters or anybody else.
“Tobacco companies make and sell a product which is addictive and kills 2 out of 3 smokers. We now have a chance to stop the start of young smokers and I would urge everyone and anyone to support this.”
She added: “Women’s lung cancer rates are still rising around the world thanks to tobacco companies getting more and more women hooked. There’s nothing glamourous or feminine about having scars all over your body due to having surgery for lung cancer.
“For Lung Cancer Awareness Month it is important to be aware of the signs and get checked out if you are concerned, but also the risks. Smoking is the biggest risk of all and if you do smoke, don’t wait to quit.”
Claire Oldfield was just 49 when she was diagnosed with lung cancer and had two thirds of her right lung removed. Unfortunately due to complications in surgery, Claire went into respiratory failure and was in a coma for nine days, leaving her husband and three children wondering if she’d wake up. She pulled through and has now been cancer free and smokefree for a year in October. She uses a vape to make sure she doesn’t start smoking again.
Claire said: “This is the ideal opportunity for the government to act and reduce the number of people dying from lung cancer. I’m lucky to be alive.
“I started smoking at the age of 15 and I wish the Government then had taken action and I wouldn’t have ended up with only a third of a lung. I would love to see a smoke free generation.
“This is the perfect chance for the Government to eradicate smoking once and for all and help to reduce the number of people dying from lung cancer.”
Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh and Balance, said: “Public support here in the North East for a smokefree generation is some of the highest in the country and we are encouraging responses from all over the North East.
“Smoking rates have more than halved over the last two decades but it is still our biggest killer and driver of health inequalities.
“Tobacco must be treated differently – it’s the only product where people get addicted as children, taking away any adult choice. It’s time to give our next generation a better life with decisive and bold action across the UK”.
The Government has launched an eight week consultation across the UK with proposals being consulted on including making it an offence for anyone born on or after 1 January 2009 to be sold tobacco products
Tobacco is the biggest cause of ill health, disability and death in the country, responsible for 64,000 deaths in England a year and more than 117,000 deaths in the North East since the year 2000.
In the North East, tobacco costs nearly £1 billion a year in medical, health and social care, lost earnings and smoking-related unemployment.