Two Sunderland children need medical treatment every day for smoking-related health problems, shock new figures reveal.
New statistics, compiled by anti-smoking campaigners Fresh, reveal that more than five per cent of youngsters aged 11-15 in the city are smoking.
And 708 Wearside youngsters need GP or hospital treatment every year for conditions including glue ear, wheezing and asthma from breathing in other people’s smoke.
The figures also show the NHS has to foot a £12.3million bill each year as it treats smokers, with smoking taking up 56,800 GP appointments and 12,500 hospital admissions and outpatient visits every year.
And smoking also hits the city’s economy with a £5million annual cost due to sickness and absentees.
The research comes as campaigners say quitting could lift 34,000 children and families out of poverty across the North East, with a new five-year action plan Smoking Still Kills calling for increased efforts to help people stub out their habit.
More than ever it’s the poorest people in our society who take up smoking younger and are more likely to suffer from tobacco related diseases from middle age, and the North East pays a heavy price, while the tobacco industry profits.Lisa Surtees, acting director of Fresh
Fresh has also said tobacco companies should be forced to pay towards reducing smoking and ensure fewer children take up cigarettes in the first place.
The NHS Five Year Forward View warns “the future health of millions of children, the sustainability of the NHS, and the economic prosperity of Britain all now depend on a radical upgrade in prevention and public health” to help fill a massive funding gap of billions of pounds.
The tobacco industry makes around £30billion in profit which is more than Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and Microsoft combined.
Lisa Surtees, acting director of Fresh, said: “Every year thousands of people in the North East die or have their lives changed forever by smoking-related illnesses.
“At the same time thousands of young people take up smoking, storing up a burden of ill health and premature death for the future.
“As this report makes clear we must go further and do more.
“Most smokers regret ever starting and do not want their own children to start.
“At a time when so many people are struggling, these figures show how thousands of North East families could feel better off by quitting smoking.
“More than ever it’s the poorest people in our society who take up smoking younger and are more likely to suffer from tobacco related diseases from middle age, and the North East pays a heavy price, while the tobacco industry profits.”
Fresh was the UK’s first dedicated regional programme set up in the North East in 2005 to tackle the worst rates of smoking related illness and death in England.
New research by public health campaign group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) reveals that in the North East over 95,000 households who live below the poverty line include an adult that smokes.
Every year smoking in the North East also results in 5,500 deaths a year, with 20 people suffering from a smoking-related disease for every death.