Progress for a Smoke Free Sunderland may stagnate after Government U-turn

Written by on 24th October 2022

Reports from The Guardian and Telegraph suggest that the Government may U-turn on its commitment for a smoke-free UK by 2035. 

The initial smoking action plan, proposed in the Conservative 2019 manifesto may have been called into question by the current health secretary Thérèse Coffey, according to Whitehall insiders.

Those same sources have suggested that elements of the smoking action plan will be incorporated into the Government’s cancer action plan that will go ahead as planned.

The Huff Post said: “A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said it was “inaccurate” to suggest that the tobacco control plan had been scrapped.”

According to a study by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) in 2020, the North East had the highest levels of smokers regionally in England.  

It is estimated that 13.6% of North East residents are smokers compared to many southern regions that have lower levels.

  Current smokers
Region of England % LCI UCI
North East 13.6 12.6 14.7
North West 13.4 12.6 14.3
Yorkshire and The Humber 12.9 12.0 13.9
East Midlands 11.5 10.4 12.6
West Midlands 12.8 11.8 13.8
East of England 12.7 11.7 13.7
London 11.1 10.2 12.1
South East 11.1 10.3 11.8
South West 10.9 10.1 11.7
Regional percentages are proportional to the population who smoke and are over the age of 18+.
‘LCI’ and ‘UCI’ refer to lower and upper 95% confidence intervals, respectively.

The study also highlighted the differences in local authorities in the North East, with Sunderland holding the third highest level of smokers, behind South Tyneside and Hartlepool.  

  Current smokers
Region of the North East % LCI UCI
Hartlepool 15.9 12.4 19.4
Middlesbrough 12.8 9.2 16.3
Redcar and Cleveland 13.4 10.6 16.3
Stockton-on-Tees 10.8 7.8 13.8
Darlington 13.5 10.0 16.9
County Durham 14.3 11.2 17.4
Northumberland 12.2 8.8 15.6
Newcastle upon Tyne 13.6 9.8 17.4
North Tyneside 14.3 10.7 17.9
South Tyneside 15.7 12.0 19.4
Sunderland 14.6 11.4 17.8
Gateshead 13.0 9.3 16.6
Regional percentages are proportional to the population who smoke and are over the age of 18+.
‘LCI’ and ‘UCI’ refer to lower and upper 95% confidence intervals, respectively

Levels have reduced since 2012, from 23.8% of Sunderland residents who smoked to now only 13.6%. 

The action plan may have accelerated this ongoing trend, but if current suggestions are true, a smoke-free Sunderland may take much longer. 

Another action group, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), announced in a statement earlier this year that they estimate that smoking costs the UK £17bn a year. 

These estimations are based on multiple factors including healthcare costs, damages caused by fires started by cigarettes, and effects on productivity. 

Whilst in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, if smoking was phased out, ASH said: “This would generate around half a million jobs, with a net benefit to public finances of £600m.”

Now that the Government’s plans may not go ahead, a smoke-free Britain by 2035 and its potential benefits may not happen any time soon.

Do you think the Government should stick with its plan for a smoke-free Britain? Have your say at Spark Sunderland

Current track