Smoking in front of children costs NHS £103million a year in North West, claims Manchester City Council leader

By Neil Robertson

Smoking in front of children is costing the NHS £103million a year in the North West and we must ‘cut off’ the new supply of smokers, claims Manchester’s council leader.

Sir Richard Leese revealed on his blog that smoking costs the NHS in the North West around £400million per year, after he attended a Tobacco Free Futures for Kids meeting on Wednesday.

Sir Richard also reported that the effects of second-hand smoke on children costs the NHS £103million a year in the North West.

Sir Richard wrote on his council blog: “The Tobacco companies of course want to replace those lost customers and the basic technique is to catch ’em young.

“Most smokers start when they are still in their teens and one of the reasons I support things like the plain packaging campaign is to try and cut off that new supply of cigarette addicts.”

Despite these alarmingly high figures, in Greater Manchester there are reasons to be positive.

Chris Love, Senior Manager of Health and Wellbeing Care at Stop Smoking Service Manchester, said her organisation have got 5,000 people to quit smoking over the past year.

They have thus met the targets set by the Department of Health for 2012/13 and the hard work, Ms Love says, doesn’t stop there.

“Reducing smoking is the most important change for the health of our nation,” she said.

“We’ve made huge strides and just want to keep going.

“What we do is a long and hard process, but it’s the most important difference one could make to the health of the nation, really.”

Stop Smoking Service provides support at community centres, specialist clinics, GP practices and pharmacies to help people stop smoking.

The service’s Smokefree Homes scheme, which aims to stop second smoke spreading to children, has obtained approximately 1,200 signatures. 

They also make regular visits to schools and work with midwifes to help pregnant women give up smoking.  

Ms Love admitted, however, that the huge cost of smoking to the public cannot be ignored, and is an unfortunate reflection on Britain’s smoking culture.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all – it’s always been the case that the cost is massive and frighteningly so,” she said.

“Smoking costs the country as a whole, the industry, and the community an enormous amount of money.”

A particularly shocking statistic which came out of the Tobacco Free Futures for Kids  meeting showed that some families spent a quarter of their income on cigarettes.

These latest revelations come after the government decided not to go ahead with the legislation which would have seen plainly packaged cigarettes at the Queen’s Speech on May 8.

Ms Love suggested the government’s failure to deglamourize smoking and stop the lure of advertising must be addressed.

“The government needs to take the tobacco industry as a whole more seriously,” she said.

“Unfortunately in Manchester we lag behind the rest of country and have high levels of smoking.

“Obviously the power of advertising is absolutely huge.  Having the plain packaging would be a huge step forward.”

“The fact of the matter is that the majority of people who smoke would like to give up, but they’re hooked, aren’t they?”

A recent survey by Cancer Research UK showed that in Greater Manchester, nearly six children a day took up smoking last year.

This has been put down to factors such as peer pressure, but Ms Love suspects that, for adult smokers, the factors are more unavoidable.

“There’s many reasons people smoke – many have stressful lives and use smoking as a stress releaser.”

Abbie Paton, Senior Public Health Development Adviser at Stop Smoking Service, said that children’s exposure to second-hand smoke was the catalyst behind soaring smoking rates.

Stopping children being exposed to their parents and families smoking, she claims, will help the cost of smoking to the region.

“Whilst smoking is seen as something adults do, children will want to do it, she said.

“Kids are going to start being interested in smoking when they want to start feeling like adults.

“Adults should set an example. Once that’s the case, children won’t have the inclination.”

Speaking about the figures, Ms Paton said:

“I’m not particularly surprised about it, considering smoking is the biggest cause of disease in the country.

“But I’m glad that there is attention being drawn to it and that organisations such as the NHS are taking action.”

“It’s not about forcing people to stop, it’s not about pushing them, we just want to offer and provide help where people are interested.” 

Picture courtesy of Gideondk, with thanks.

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