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North East smoking rates down to record low

Fresh has welcomed a new historic low for smoking rates in the North East published today by NHS Digital.


Smoking rates among adults in the North East fell from 18.7% in 2015 down to 17.2% in 2016.


The region also had a higher fall than England for smoking rates during pregnancy, with Smoking at the Time of Delivery rates in the North East falling from 16.7% down to 16%, compared to rates in England falling from 10.6% to 10.5%.


This means across England, about one in twelve smokers quit during 2016: the percentage of people in England aged above 18 who were smokers in 2016 is 15.5% compared to 16.9% in 2015, a fall of 1.4 percentage points. This is the largest annual fall in the last 40 years. Of particular note is the large decline among young people with smoking rates falling 6.5% among 18-24 year olds since 2010.


However, despite this decline, smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death. Smoking is also responsible for half the difference in life expectancy between rich and poor and smoking is still higher among poorer people in society, who smoke more and die younger.


Ailsa Rutter, Director of Fresh, said: "The region has come a long way in the last decade with more families than ever making smoking history. Back in 2005, our adult smoking rates were on 29% and these new figures show we are actually getting close to halving smoking. That's something many people would have thought was unthinkable.


"We're also delighted to see smoking in pregnancy falling. The North East approach to tackling smoking during pregnancy – where midwives raise this with women and refer them to support to quit – has had calls for this to be rolled out nationally. The impact of NHS professionals raising this issue with women makes them twice as likely to quit smoking.


"While our rates are still too high, action is working. This fall is testament to the work of our local authorities working in partnership with Fresh and many others who have prioritised this issue. The last year has seen the introduction of plain, standardised packs and figures suggest this may have already had an impact on smokers. Media campaigns are educating adults and young people about the harms, and smokers now have so many options to help them quit, from prescription medication to switching to safer forms of nicotine like electronic cigarettes.


"What is also really encouraging are discussions about the important role the NHS can play to ensure every smoker going to hospital is offered support to quit and treated for tobacco dependency"


But she added: "Smoking is still our biggest killer and one in two lifetime smokers will die from smoking related disease, so a fall in smoking rates of this scale will save many thousands of lives in years to come."