Smoking deaths highlight health inequalities.

Friday 12 November 2004

ASH news release: Embargo: 00:01 Friday 12th November 2004

More than 1600 people in England die every week from illnesses caused by smoking, a major new report by the Health Development Agency has revealed.  The report  – “The Smoking Epidemic in England” – provides an estimate of the smoking-attributable deaths for each primary care trust (PCT) and strategic health authority (SHA) in England. [1] The report also highlights the differences in smoking prevalence, with higher smoking rates among people in disadvantaged areas.  This difference is a root cause of health inequalities: numbers of deaths caused by smoking are higher in disadvantaged areas than in more affluent areas.  It also means that people working and living in poorer areas of England are exposed to higher levels of tobacco smoke pollution.  1.5 million of the 2.2 million employees in workplaces where smoking is allowed throughout are in routine, manual and intermediate occupations.  Only 700,000 are in professional and managerial occupations. [2]

Deborah Arnott, Director of the health campaigning charity ASH, said:

“The fall in the number of deaths from smoking is good news. But tobacco remains the single biggest preventable cause of death in the UK.  It is also the main reason why people in the poorest sections of society die younger than those who are better off.

If the Government wants to hit its own ambitious targets to cut smoking rates and tackle health inequalities, it must now end smoking in workplaces and public places. The Wanless Report identified this as the simplest and most powerful step the Government can take to reduce the terrible toll of damage still done by smoking.  The Scottish Executive is leading the way: John Reid should follow and promise UK-wide action in next week’s White Paper. None of the messy, bodged compromises on this issue so far trailed by his spin doctors will do. Smoking in the workplace harms the health of others; it must end.”


[1]  The Smoking Epidemic in England.  Health Development Agency, London,  2004

[2]  MORI survey.  See: Overwhelming backing for workplace smoking law


Contact: Deborah Arnott  020 7739 5902 (w) 079 7693 5987 (m) ISDN available


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