Smoking Kills 227 every day in England

The Independent
17 October 2008

Tobacco killed 227 people a day in England in 2007 – equivalent to a jet airliner crashing every 24 hours – and caused 1,200 hospital admissions, de-spite the huge fall in smoking in recent decades, latest figures show.

Figures from the NHS Information Centre show there were 445,100 hospital admissions for smoking among the over-35s, one in 20 of the total, over the year. A quarter of the patients had cancer, with the remainder divided between heart and respiratory conditions.

Deaths caused by smoking in the same age group totalled 82,900 in the year. Almost 45 per cent were due to cancer, with most of the remainder heart and respiratory disease. Smoking is believed to cost the NHS in England £2.7bn a year.

The one positive note in the figures is that deaths from smoking are declining, as more people give up, or never start. Deaths are down 14 per cent since 2001, equivalent to saving more than 37 lives a day.

But quitting rates have fallen sharply since last year, the first year of the smoking ban in public places. Less than 135,000 people set a quit date through the NHS Stop Smoking service in the second quarter of 2008, down by 22 per cent since the same period in 2007.

Of those, less than half succeeded in staying cigarette-free for four weeks. Despite the high failure rate, the £16m cost of running the Stop Smoking service is considered highly cost-effective.

Smoking has been declining for 50 years. In 2006, 22 per cent of adults smoked, according to the General Household Survey, down from 39 per cent in 1980 and from 80 per cent (among men) in the 1950s.

After decades of being dominated by men, smoking is becoming feminised among the young. Though the proportion of children aged from 11 to 15 who smoke has declined, the decline has been more marked in boys than girls. Today, girls are more likely to be smokers than boys (36 per cent compared with 31 per cent) and are more likely to smoke regularly (8 per cent compared with 5 per cent).

Successive governments have banned advertising, imposed warnings on cigarette packets, outlawed their sale to under-18s, offered help with quitting on the NHS and made it illegal to smoke in pubs, clubs, restaurants or any enclosed public space.

Professor Martin Jarvis, president of the anti-smoking charity Ash, says the present government's record in slashing smoking rates is one of its "finest achievements".

22% of adults in the UK smoke, down from 39 per cent in 1980. 80 per cent of men smoked in the 1950s.

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