Sunderland's shocking health legacy: Five people a week die from smoking

Almost five people a week are still dying from smoking-related cancers in Sunderland.

Sunday, 31st January 2016, 11:01 pm
Updated Monday, 1st February 2016, 6:39 am

That’s more than a quarter of all deaths by cancer which were recorded in the city in 2013.

And it is only one of a string of hard-hitting facts aimed at encouraging smokers to pack in for good.

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Statistics for the city showed there were 867 deaths from cancer in 2013. Of those, 243 were attributed to smoking - the highest in the city for five years and the third highest of any year going back to 2001.

But now comes the fightback which is being led by campaign group Fresh and has the support of Sunderland City Council.

Portfolio Holder for Public Health, Wellness and Culture, Councillor John Kelly, said: “Smoking is the biggest cause of avoidable ill health and death in our community, and Sunderland City Council is supporting this campaign to remind people of the dangers.

“It is easy to put the harm of smoking out of the mind, which is why campaigns like these play such an important role in raising awareness.”

Fresh’s Quit 16 campaign, supported by Cancer Research UK, features real former smokers warning how cancer can change lives and families forever.

Besides lung cancer, smoking also causes cancers of the mouth, nasal cavities, pharynx and larynx, stomach, kidney, bowel, liver, pancreas, cervix, bladder and ovaries, oesophagus and ureter, as well as myeloid leukaemia.

Worryingly, a survey of North East smokers found over 34% could not name one cancer caused by smoking - unless they were prompted.

But help is at hand and people can find out more about local support and free quitting tools to download at

Ailsa Rutter, Director of Fresh, said: “Most of us know about lung cancer, but it’s worrying how few people are aware that poisons in smoke attack so many different parts of the body, whether they smoke cigarettes or roll ups.

“We are urging anyone who smokes to think how their family would cope if it was them and make 2016 their year to make a new start. Quitting might not always be easy, but continuing to smoke is often much, much harder.”

Dr Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK’s head of health and patient information, said: “The best thing smokers can do is give up - for their own health as well as their friends’ and family’s. Quitting can be extremely difficult, but it greatly reduces the risk of smoking-related cancers, as well as other illness such as heart and lung disease. For those who are ready to give up, local Stop Smoking Services are the best place to start. The earlier you stop smoking the better but it’s never too late to quit.”

Dr Tony Branson, Medical Director - Cancer, for NHS England’s Northern England Strategic Clinical Networks, said: “Every cigarette pumps thousands of harmful chemicals into the lungs, and around the body. Many of these are known to damage DNA, stick to cells, harm cell repair and cause cancer.”

On the plus side, the North East had the largest drop in smokers nationwide between 2013-14 and the biggest fall over the past decade.

But around 416,000 people still smoke in the region, costing the NHS £88.8m a year, the regional economy £37.5m and local authorities £37m in social care costs.