South Shields former smoker who took up habit aged 11 and fought off cancer three times joins doctors in backing plan to eradicate smoking
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More than 113,000 people in the North East have been killed by tobacco since the year 2000, while eight million have died from smoking in the UK since 1971.
Sue underwent laser treatment in 2012 after a biopsy revealed she had laryngeal cancer. The cancer returned in 2017 which required radiotherapy every day for four weeks.
She now wants action to be taken to ensure future generations don’t befall a similar fate.
Sue said: “As someone who’s had smoking-related cancer three times I know the heartbreak it can cause. I started when I was a kid at primary school before I realised how addictive it was.
“Smoking has killed nearly eight million people in the UK in the last 50 years. Why do we tolerate this? Why aren’t we doing more to stop people dying?”
The independent report, launched by Dr Javed Khan, Chief Executive of Barnardo's, identifies key areas which need to be addressed to eradicate smoking, including an annual increase in the age people can buy cigarettes “until the point where no-one can buy them”.
Dr Kahn also believes the Government should target the big tobacco companies by levying them with a polluter tax in the which the money generated could be used to invest in schemes to help people stop smoking – something wholeheartedly supported by Sue.
She said: “I don't want my grandchildren going through what I went through. I think my view will be shared by many people who’ve smoked – it makes you even more concerned your loved ones don't follow.
“Increasing the age won’t stop everyone smoking but it would help stop a lot of people.
On the tobacco companies, she added: “They are making massive profits from an addiction that robs people of their lives and health. I believe they need to pay for the damage they do – more support for smokers and awareness campaigns encouraging people to stop.”
It’s a sentiment shared by the region’s health leaders who feel the Government need to be doing more to meet their pledge.
Since the initial pledge nearly three years ago, 15,000 people have died as a result of smoking and nearly 17,000 children have taken up the habit.
Dr Ruth Sharrock, Respiratory Consultant and Clinical Lead for Tobacco Dependency for the North East said: "Every day on our ward I see the widespread, devastating effects caused by smoking.
"No one wants their children to suffer from cancer or wake up gasping for breath. Sadly, that's the reality for many smokers. That's why we need the harm to stop now, to create a smoke-free future for the next generation.”
Amanda Healy, Director of Public Health for County Durham, added: “After Covid we must now recognise smoking is our single biggest killer. We are calling on the Government to take bold new steps to reduce smoking further, stop children from starting and curb the influence of tobacco companies.”