Smoking: Four Die Every Day

Leicester Mercury
9 January 2009

About four people are dying every day in Leicestershire through smoking-related illnesses.

Every year, about 2,300 smokers have to be rushed to hospital suffering strokes, heart attacks, severe asthma attacks and lung diseases.

The illnesses caused by the habit are also costing the city's NHS £18 million a year alone – and the shocking figures do not even include the number of deaths from cancer linked to cigarettes.

Data on cancer has been excluded because of the complex nature of the causes and treatment of the disease. Health bosses also wanted to drive home the point that smoking causes far more problems than just cancer.

If the figures had been included, the death rate and the cost to the NHS would have been significantly higher.

Despite major efforts to get people to give up over the past few years, about one in four people still smoke.

The human toll caused by smoking was published today as health bosses in Leicester prepare a campaign to encourage people to quit.

They will target community leaders to help get their message across.

Louise Ross, manager of NHS Leicester City's Stop! smoking service, said: "We need people, ordinary people and those with influence, to drive forward the message."

More than 100 people such as teachers, and social and health workers are attending a "Make Smoking History" event at the Curve theatre on February 25 to help find ways of getting the message across.

If more can be done to persuade the estimated 66,000 smokers in the city to quit, there would be more money left to provide extra GP and dental services, and rehabilitation care for residents.

Ms Ross is also concerned that the poorest families in the community are the ones spending the most on tobacco.

It is estimated that about 14,000 of the most deprived families in Leicester are spending about £15 million a year on cigarettes.

Ms Ross said: "If they reinvested that money, it would create an immediate rise in their standard of living."

Latest figures show 1,428 people die each year from smoking-related diseases in Leicester and Leicestershire – the equivalent of nearly four a day.

David Sprason, Leicestershire County Council's spokesman for adult social care and health, said efforts were underway to encourage people to stop smoking outside the city.

He said he was watching the city's latest campaign with interest.

"Getting people to quit smoking is one of our key health priorities in the county," he said.

"We already try to get the message across to children at schools and GP surgeries that smoking is harmful. I think this initiative could be very beneficial."

The Stop! smoking service sees about 4,000 people a year.

One of the patients is pipe-fitter Michael Smith, who has just quit.

For the past 25 years, he has been smoking 35 cigarettes a day, but after nine weeks without them, he is already breathing more easily.

Mr Smith, 41, from Braunstone Town, Leicester, said: "I tried giving up a few times on my own without success.

"Recently, I noticed how short of breath I was getting and was sure it was down to smoking.

"I am not finding it too difficult and am hoping never to smoke again."

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