Find us on:
  • Home
  • About Us
  • The Problem
  • What We Do
  • In The News
  • For Professionals
  • Contact
A+ A A-

Cancer survivor Sue: Government must take action on smoking

280 children a day in England start smoking [1] and over 15 people a day in the North East die from it. [2] Those are the stark figures highlighted today as a North East cancer survivor joins health leaders nationally to call on the Government to deliver on its ambition to be smokefree by 2030 and make tobacco companies pay to end the tobacco epidemic.


Recent data has also revealed that the North East has seen an increase in quitting during the COVID-19 pandemic and Fresh says it is vital that further action is taken with a matter of urgency in order to continue to drive down smoking rates across all population groups. This will be vital to get to down to less than 5% by 2030 across all groups: this is vital to reduce to smoking related health inequalities.


Today Sue Mountain is speaking at the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Smoking meeting which is being attended by both the Public Health Minister Jo Churchill MP and also the Shadow Public Health Minister Alex Norris MP.


The APPG is endorsing the Roadmap laid out by the Smokefree Action Coalition which sets out recommendations for how the Government's ambition of a Smokefree 2030 can be delivered. Parliamentarians including local councillors from the North East who are attending the event will hear expert presentations about:


  • why ending smoking is essential for the health and financial wellbeing of the country;
  • what measures are needed to deliver the Government's smokefree ambition, including increasing the age of sale to 21; and
  • how legislation could be implemented to levy a charge on the tobacco industry to finance the measures needed to deliver the Government's smokefree ambition.


Ex-smoker Sue Mountain, from South Shields, quit smoking after being treated for cancer of the throat, said: "I started smoking when I was eleven to fit in, it felt like most children smoked when I was young. It's good that far fewer children smoke now, but just one child starting is one too many. I know from personal experience how easy it is to start smoking and how difficult it is to stop.


"I'm delighted the government has set an ambition for a smokefree generation by 2030. But words on their own are not enough, action is needed to prevent future generations ending up like me, with a constant worry that the cancer will come back because of my smoking. And I am one of the lucky ones, I've survived."


People in the North East strongly support tobacco manufacturers being required to pay a levy or license fee to Government for measures to help smokers quit and prevent young people from taking up smoking. 73% of the North East support this, with only 7% opposing it.


The Government first announced its ambition for England to be smokefree by 2030 in July last year but a year on and they have not announced what planned action they will take. [4] Meanwhile over 77,000 people a year die prematurely from smoking in England with thirty times as many suffering from serious, smoking-related disease. Smokers who are hospitalised with COVID-19 are also more likely to suffer severe outcomes than non-smokers.


Since last July over 102,000 children under 16 have started smoking in England. That's enough to fill both St James' Park and the Stadium of Light. Two thirds of those who experiment with smoking go on to become daily smokers. (5) 


Professor Eugene Milne, Director of Public Health with Newcastle City Council and tobacco lead for the Association of Directors of Public Health in the North East said: "We know what works to address smoking but it requires funding and tougher regulation of tobacco companies. Local authorities can play a vital role to reduce smoking further but we also need new national policies like increasing the age of sale to 21, putting warnings not just on the packs but on cigarettes too, and requiring cigarette companies to put independent advice on stopping smoking inside the packs. But just as important is reinstating funding for the tried and tested policies, like media campaigns which have been so successful in discouraging youth uptake and motivating adult smokers to try to stop."


Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh, said: "In the North East we have suffered the most with heavier smoking rates and an appalling rate of smoking related diseases. There is a point when we have to say enough is enough. Like leopards, tobacco companies don't change their spots.


"Tobacco companies make huge profits – at least £1 billion a year in the UK alone- 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 for prevention."



[1] [Methodology: Calculated by the Cancer Intelligence Team at Cancer Research UK, January 2020. Estimated number of new child smokers in England each day on average between 2019 and 2021. Calculated using

Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use in Young People in England survey data. For 2014-18, percentage of new smokers ('regular', 'occasional', or 'used to smoke') each year was calculated for age 12, 13, 14 and 15; for example the percentage of smokers aged 12 in 2017 was subtracted from the percentage of smokers aged 13 in 2018. For age 11 all smokers were considered new smokers. 2015 and 2017 figures were estimated (average of surrounding years) as no surveys were carried out in those years. Percentage of new smokers in England was applied to England population estimates to obtain the number of new England smokers. The 2014-18 trend in estimated number of new child smokers in England each year was projected forward to obtain estimates for 2019-21. Yearly figures were divided by 365 to obtain daily figures

[2] Action on Smoking and Health – Local toolkit on tobacco

[3] For more information about the Smokefree 2030 campaign, including the Roadmap and the full list of endorsing organisations see

[4] Cabinet Office and DHSC.

Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s – consultation document. July 2019.

[5] 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. November 2018. doi:10.1093/ntr/ntx243