An action plan has been compiled to tackle South Tyneside’s £50million smoking addiction.
The council’s People Select Committee has made 16 recommendations for decision-making Cabinet members to consider in a bid to reduce the number of people smoking in the borough.
A special commission into the issue found South Tyneside smokers spend £50million on cigarettes each year.
It works out at £2,000 per smoker – ten per cent of the median average income in the borough of £20,000.
This leads to health conditions that cost the NHS in South Tyneside between £11million and £22million every year.
However, by endorsing the new recommendations – which include making hospital trust grounds and local parks smoke free – it’s hoped the number of tobacco addicts will be reduced.
Coun John McCabe, committee chairman, said: “We have a big problem with smoking in South Tyneside, and it’s an issue which needs to be taken seriously.
“We’ve came up with these recommendations, while working with various organisations and agencies, some of them are very simple.
“We need people to stop selling tobacco to youngsters and to focus on getting older smokers to quit for good.”
One of the key recommendations Coun McCabe hopes to be implemented is for a smoke free environment at South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust.
Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust already implements the rule, and it would mean no smoking anywhere within the hospital grounds.
Coun McCabe said: “I don’t think there’s anything worse than when you visit hospital and see patients, hooked up to saline drips, with a cigarette in their hand.
“Or when you see medics in their uniforms smoking. It doesn’t send the right message.
“A smoke-free environment is already working well in Northumberland, and we hope that South Tyneside will come back with a date for when we can go smoke-free too.”
Trust bosses say they’re fully supportive of the council’s initiatives.
Steve Jamieson, director of corporate affairs and estates, said: “We are currently reviewing our no-smoking policy, which we will be discussing at a future board meeting, with our long-term goal to have a completely smoke-free environment.
“The trust currently has smoking shelters and have also banned the use of e-cigarettes, we also have a range of services aimed at supporting patients, staff and members of the public who want to stop smoking”
Some of the other recommendations include:
•Continued focus on stopping children from starting to smoke. The introduction of smoke-free parks to be considered.
•South Tyneside’s Public Health team should review the way harmful effects of smoking are taught in schools .
•Ensure the laws regarding smoking are adhered to, particularly smoking in doorways of pubs and in bus shelters.
•Consideration should be given to introducing the “think 25” principle in shops, already used with alcohol sales.
•Greater encouragement for people to provide intelligence on smoking-related offences through a confidential hotline.