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World No Tobacco Day



NEW figures released for World No Tobacco Day (May 31) show 15 North East children start smoking every day – around the same number of people in the region who die each day from tobacco.[i]


The grim statistics, from Action on Smoking and Health and Cancer Research UK, reveal that over 5,400 children in the North East start to smoke each year – and two thirds will go on to become daily smokers.[ii]


Around 5,300 people in the North East, 83,000 in England and 8 million people around the globe die each year from smoking.  The World Health Organisation describes smoking as a leading cause of death, illness and impoverishment[iii].


The call for more action to tackle smoking comes for World No Tobacco Day, dedicated this year to protecting young people from tobacco industry manipulation[iv].




Fresh – the region's award-winning tobacco control programme designed to reduce smoking rates is 15 years old and was launched in 2005 to tackle what were then the worst rates of smoking in the country. Since then adult regular smoking has fallen from 29% down to 16%.


Latest findings from a survey by YouGov show that 76% of people in the North East support the Government's ambition to reduce smoking prevalence to 5% or below by 2030 with just 7% opposing.[v]


Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh, said: "We have made massive progress in the North East. More families are growing up free of smoking – however smoking is still our biggest preventable killer and cause of ill health.


"Tobacco company documents have referred to replacement "replacement smokers" and it is clear they continue to profit from a flow of new smokers to fill that gap of people who die or quit.


"The reality is that all tobacco will kill at least one in two of its long-term users and most children who start smoking will go on to be regular smokers.


"Many partners in the North East from local councils, NHS, charities, universities, business, unions, members of the public and countless others have joined forces on the mission to ultimately make smoking history for more families over the past 15 years. Many people are alive today who would have died had they continued to smoke, but too many smokers will have died from tobacco in that period.


"Our aim is to ensure our children today do not become the next generation of people becoming ill from tobacco in the future and that every smoker is supported to quit."


She added: "Tobacco companies make huge profits from an addiction which not only robs smokers of many years of life but also costs communities, families, every GP surgery, every local authority, every hospital and is a major driver of poverty. They should be made to pay a "polluter pays" charge for prevention and raise the resources needed to deliver on the Government's ambition of a smokefree England by 2030."


The alarming figures highlight how essential it is that the Government deliver on its ambition for England to be smokefree by 2030, so future generations can grow up smokefree.[vi]


Children whose parents smoke are nearly three times as likely to become smokers themselves [vii] highlighting the importance of doing more to help adults quit too.


For many years tobacco companies have been exposed for their tactics in targeting young people to smoke, and in recent years, tobacco companies have increasingly used social media to target young people.[viii]


An investigation published in 2018 accused tobacco companies of secretly advertising cigarettes on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter by paying social media influencers – popular young people with large online followings – to post images of cigarettes and smoking as part of a marketing strategy documented in more than 40 countries.[ix]


The cost of smoking to the North East

  • £132 million a year for the North East NHS– including 1.2 million GP consultations, over 36,000 hospital admissions, 223,000 outpatient visits and over 411,000 practice nurse consultations for smoking-related conditions
  • £50 million in social care - over £41m of that from local authority social care budgets and over £9m paid by individuals or families.
  • Over £430 million lost from the regional economy in the North East as a result of lost productivity due to smoking; including £58m in absenteeism
  • 35,000 people in the North East, including 9,000 children, driven into poverty due to smoking



[i]  Methodology: Calculated by the Cancer Intelligence Team at Cancer Research UK, December 2019, using

Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use in Young People in England 2016 and 2018 data Figures represent the average number of children per year between 2016 and 2018. Percentage of new smokers was calculated for each single-year age band, and 'smoker' was defined as 'regular', 'occasional' or 'used to smoke'. For example, percentage of new smokers aged 13 in 2018, was calculated by subtracting the percentage of smokers aged 12 in 2017, from the percentage of smokers aged 13 in 2018. This calculation was used for ages 12, 13, 14 and 15; for age 11 all smokers were considered new smokers. 2017 figures were estimated as the average of 2016 and 2018, as no 2017 survey was carried out. Percentage of new smokers in England was applied to UK population estimates to obtain the number of new UK smokers. The 2014-18 trend in estimated number of new child smokers in the UK each year was projected forward to obtain estimates for 2019-21. Breakdown to local level carried out by academics from Imperial College London.

[ii]  Birge M, Duffy S, Miler JA, Hajek P. What proportion of people who try one cigarette become daily smokers? A meta-analysis of representative surveys. Nicotine Tob Res. 2018 Nov 15;20(12):1427-1433. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntx243


[iv] WHO. World No Tobacco Day – 31 May 2020.

[v] Smokefree 2020 Survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of ASH

[vi] Department of Health and Social Care. Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s. 2019.

[vii] Leonardi-Bee J, Jere ML, Britton J. Exposure to parental and sibling smoking and the risk of smoking uptake in childhood and adolescence: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Thorax February 2011.