FALLING numbers of smokers on Wearside have helped the North East see the biggest drop in those lighting up.
This weekend marks the five-year anniversary since the Smokefree law was implemented, making smoking illegal in virtually all enclosed and substantially enclosed public places.
New figures show smoking in the North East dropping from 29 per cent to 21 per cent – double the fall nationally (from 24 to 20 per cent).
Anti-smoking campaign group Fresh estimates that almost 25,000 smokers have now successfully quit smoking, saving primary care health services just under £4.5million in the process.
Coun John Kelly, portfolio holder for public health at Sunderland City Council, said the authority sees tackling smoking as a top priority.
He said: “In Sunderland we will continue to use the combination of education and enforcement to promote the aims of Smokefree in reducing the numbers of people smoking still further, not only to help smokers themselves, but also their friends and family who also suffer health risks as a result of cigarette smoke.”
Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, said: “We have gone from the region with the worst smoking rates to the region known nationally for tackling the harm tobacco causes.
“There has been a big change in attitudes towards smoking over the past few years and we will continue to help support smokers who want to quit and raise awareness of the harm tobacco causes.”
However, Ms Rutter added that smoking is still a major health issue for those in Sunderland.
She said: “Smoking is still the biggest cause of premature death and disease in the North East and is the biggest contributor to health inequalities, with nearly one in five deaths among the over-35s as a result of smoking.
“We have 11 deaths every day in the region from smoking, which causes almost 90 per cent of lung cancer deaths, 80 per cent of bronchitis and emphysema related deaths and 17 per cent of heart disease deaths.
“For every death caused by smoking, another 20 smokers are suffering from smoking related disease, which costs the North East NHS £210million every year.”