Revealed: The cost of smoking to Sunderland’s health

New statistics show the health burden on Sunderland caused by smoking.
New statistics show the health burden on Sunderland caused by smoking.
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Sunderland’s poorly smokers have put the city among England’s worst for hospital admissions.

The legacy of lighting up has been revealed with 3,084 city residents, per every 100,000 aged 35 and over, having to have hospital treatment between 2013 and 2015 for smoking-related illnesses.

Ailsa Rutter.

Ailsa Rutter.

It’s a record which placed Sunderland second in a comprehensive list of every authority in England. Only Barnsley (3,142) ranked higher and they were both way above the national average of 1,726.

The numbers were released in new tables published by NHS Digital titled Statistics on Smoking - England 2017.

But the figures go further. They also show the city had the worst death rate in the North East from smoking with 423 deaths in the same period of people aged 35 and over- ahead of Middlesbrough (422) and Hartlepool (416).

Yet overall, the region is winning the war to get people to quit. Smoking rates among adults in the North East fell from 18.7% in 2015 down to 17.2% in 2016.

The region has come a long way in the last decade with more families than ever making smoking history. In 2005, our adult smoking rates were on 29% and these new figures show we are getting close to halving smoking. That’s something many people would have thought was unthinkable

Ailsa Rutter

Campaign group Fresh has welcomed the new historic low for smoking rates in the North East.

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.

However, despite this decline, smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death.

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.”

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. This proves that efforts to reduce smoking work.”

The hugely detailed study also looked at the level of prescriptions given out in each area to people with a smoking dependency.

Figures show that in Sunderland, there were 4,673 therapies issued and 818 nicotine replacement therapies.

Ailsa said: “While our rates are still too high, action is working. This fall is testament to the work of our local authorities and our NHS partners 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.

“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”

To get underway with their own quit attempt, people should ask at their GP surgery or pharmacy, or contact their local stop smoking service for help and support:

For information on stopping smoking, contact Sunderland Live Life Well on 0800 107 0741 or ask at your GP surgery or local pharmacy.

The Smokefreelife County Durham service can be contacted on 0800 772 0565.