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Former smoker who developed cancer joins doctors in backing report recommendations to eradicate smoking

Doctors, cancer sufferers and health campaigners across the region have welcomed a major review outlining bold plans to “make smoking obsolete”, including an annual increase in the age people can buy cigarettes.

By Neil Fatkin
Thursday, 9th June 2022, 2:42 pm

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The independent report was launched by Dr Javed Khan, chief executive of Barnardo's, and has been backed by former smoker and cancer survivor Sue Mountain, who made a passionate plea for Ministers to do more to tackle smoking.

More than 113,000 people in the North East have been killed by tobacco since the year 2000, while eight million have died from smoking in the UK since 1971.

The report recommends the minimum age at which people can buy a tobacco be raised annually “until the point where no-one can buy it”, as well as introducing a polluter tax levied on tobacco companies with the money raised invested in support schemes to help smokers quit.

An independent report has put forward a number of proposals to the Government to help them create a smoke-free country by 2030.

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Sue underwent laser treatment in 2012 after a biopsy revealed she had laryngeal cancer. The cancer returned in 2017 which required radiotherapy every day for four weeks.

She now wants action taken to ensure future generations don’t follow a similar fate.

Sue, from South Tyneside, said: “As someone who’s had smoking-related cancer three times I know the heartbreak it can cause. I started when I was a kid at primary school before I realised how addictive it was. Increasing the age won’t stop everyone smoking but it would help stop a lot of people.“Smoking has killed nearly eight million people in the UK in the last 50 years. Why do we tolerate this? Why aren’t we doing more to stop people dying?

“I don't want my grandchildren going through what I went through. I think my view will be shared by many people who’ve smoked – it makes you even more concerned your loved ones don't follow. I could have bought half a house with the money I’ve spent on smoking.”

South Tyneside resident and former smoker, Sue Mountain, has received treatment for laryngeal cancer and has pleaded with the Government to do more to tackle smoking.

Sue believes the Government should be targeting the tobacco companies as well as individual smokers.

She added: “Tobacco companies are making massive profits from an addiction that robs people of their lives and health. I believe they need to pay for the damage they do – more support for smokers and awareness campaigns encouraging people to stop.”

It’s a sentiment shared by the region’s health leaders who feel the Government need to be doing more to meet their pledge to make England a smoke-free country by 2030.

Since the initial pledge nearly three years ago, 15,000 people have died as a result of smoking and nearly 17,000 children have taken up the habit.

Dr Ruth Sharrock, Respiratory Consultant and Clinical Lead for Tobacco Dependency for the North East said: "Every day on our ward I see the widespread, devastating effects caused by smoking.

"No one wants their children to suffer from cancer or wake up gasping for breath. Sadly, that's the reality for many smokers. That's why we need the harm to stop now, to create a smoke-free future for the next generation.”

Amanda Healy, Director of Public Health for County Durham, added: “After Covid we must now recognise smoking is our single biggest killer. We are calling on the Government to take bold new steps to reduce smoking further, stop children from starting and curb the influence of tobacco companies.”