SMOKING-related illnesses will kill at least one South Tynesider a day this year, according to new figures.
The latest data from Fresh, the region’s tobacco control programme, shows that an estimated 428 people over the age of 35 will die from a condition related to smoking in the borough in 2014.
South Tyneside, home to 88,040 people aged over 35, has the second highest mortality rate in the North East, behind only Middlesbrough.
The latest figures are almost double the 244 such deaths recorded in the borough in 2012.
Over the course of that year, treating people with smoking-related illnesses in South Tyneside cost the NHS an estimated £7.8m.
Fresh is using the statistics to back up its re-launched ‘Don’t be the 1’ campaign, adding that seven out of 10 family and friends worry about their loved ones smoking .
Smoking is the biggest preventable cause of death in the North East – causing more than a dozen types of cancer, heart disease and stroke, as well as increasing the risks of diabetes, dementia and blindness.
Despite one in two long-term smokers dying early, nine out of 10 seriously underestimate the risks involved.
Gateshead has the region’s third highest mortality rate, with an estimated 419 annual deaths out of its over-35s population of 115,694.
And out of Sunderland’s 160,008 over 35-year-olds, 401 people are dying annually.
Newcastle had 392 out of its 135,957 population aged 35-plus dying from a smoking relation condition, but North Tyneside fared better, with just 355 fatalities out of a 120,254 population.
The anti-smoking group is urging the region’s 460,000 smokers to quit and live longer for their loved ones’ sake.
Dr Liz Fuller, consultant respiratory physician with South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust, said: “It is hard to sit someone down and tell them they have a smoking-related disease, especially when it is likely to be terminal or take many years off their lives.
“Sadly, we have to deliver bad news like this to patients in South Tyneside every week.
“For anyone thinking about quitting, I would urge them to picture themselves waiting for the test results and what it would feel like having to tell their family.”
Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, said: “Quitting might not always be easy, but if you stop now, you lower your risk of dying early at any age.
“That is why we are encouraging everyone who smokes to make a real effort to quit before it’s too late, because they have parents, partners, children, grandchildren who love them, worry about them and want them to be there for the future.”
The figures come after Cancer Research UK revealed that fewer people are dying of breast, bowel, lung and prostate cancers in the region.
However, council bosses say that while the numbers are in decline, there is no room for complacency.
A South Tyneside Council spokesperson said: “Our figures show that while mortality rates in South Tyneside have come down at a similar rate to the rest of England, cancer still has a much bigger impact in the borough, so there is still a lot of work to be done.
“However, we must continually raise public awareness of cancer symptoms, encouraging people to seek help early and promote early diagnosis in primary care.”
Quit cigarettes for sake of your family, says grandmother
GRANDMOTHER Joan Ann Burns is one of many South Tynesiders worried about a loved one smoking.
Joan, of the Scotch Estate in Jarrow, quit smoking last year for the sake of her family, and she is now hoping her husband Raymond, 70, will follow suit.
The 64-year-old, a retired cleaner, said: “As well as for my own health, I quit because I didn’t want my family to go through the pain of losing someone to smoking.
“Having smoked all of her life, my mum died when she was only 56 from cancer.
“It really puts life into perspective when I think about it now how young she was. I want to be around for my family as long as possible, and quitting smoking will help me to do that.
“I started smoking when I was about 16. All of our family smoked.
“Smoking was considered normal back then, but the impact of smoking on my health over the years has been enormous.
“I suffer from severe asthma, and smoking about 20 cigarettes a day really aggravated this condition.
“I’d often wake-up in the night coughing and spluttering, unable to breathe. I ended up in intensive care once and thought I was going to die after a particularly bad attack.”
The grandmother of two, also a great-gran of three, now wants Raymond to stub out his bad habit.
She said: “I’m trying to encourage my husband Raymond to quit now. He was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder in his 60s, and I get really scared when I see him struggling to breathe, especially on a night when he wakes up unable to catch his breath.
“I feel so much better since I quit smoking. It’s the best thing that you can do for your health and your family.
‘Don’t give up on giving up’, is my advice.”