WHO Award for North East tobacco control campaigner

Thursday 29 May 2014

ASH is delighted to announce that Ms Ailsa Rutter, Director of FRESH, the office of tobacco control in the north-east, has been awarded a WHO World No Tobacco Day medal in recognition of her outstanding work in tackling smoking. [1]

Ms Rutter set up the first regional tobacco control office in the UK and has been the Director of FRESH-Smokefree North East since 2005 as well as providing guidance on the setting up of similar programmes in the North West and South West. [2]

In the first five years of FRESH’s work, smoking rates in the North East fell at twice the national average. In 2005, when Ms Rutter became Director of FRESH, the region had the highest smoking prevalence rate of any region in England. This is no longer the case: prevalence rates in the region are only slightly higher than the average for England. [3]

FRESH’s outstanding record of work on tobacco control issues at a regional level was selected as a case study by the Department of Health in its 2011 “Tobacco Control Plan” for England.

The programme has also been awarded the Charles Cully Memorial Medal from the Irish Cancer Society and Gold Medal at the inaugural Chief Medical Officer’s Public Health Awards in 2009. Last week its Don’t be the 1 campaign was also awarded the prestigious Grand Prix award (best of the best) at the national Roses Creative Awards.
Ms Rutter, leads the small FRESH team which has:

• Developed and managed a complex regional programme in an area of 2.5 million people
• Led the strategic multi-agency partnership on tobacco control in the North East
• Played a leading role in developing co-ordinated local government action on tobacco control, ensuring that tobacco control remained a key public health priority, after the public health function was transferred to local authorities
• Led the original establishment and subsequent development of the North of England Tackling Illicit Tobacco for Better Health Programme, which is regarded internationally as a model of excellence for regional programmes tackling both the demand for and supply of illicit tobacco
• Developed and implemented high quality award winning media campaigns on tobacco control, including everybreath.tv and dontbethe1.tv.
Ailsa Rutter, Director of FRESH NE said:

“When FRESH was set up in the north east the aim was to stop making headlines for being the worst area in the country for smoking related death and disease and do all we can to tackle our biggest killer. This is a tremendous honour and I am thrilled to accept this award. I would like to thank my fantastic, committed and hard working colleagues at FRESH and also all of the many partners we work with, particularly within our 12 local authorities who have demonstrated exceptional leadership for many years around tobacco issues.

FRESH has always been about much more than a small team or programme but about a real sense that addressing smoking is ‘everyone’s business’ and in the north east many people have worked tirelessly together since 2005 to help tackle what were very high smoking rates in the region. Although we have achieved a great deal, much more still needs to be done to make smoking history for our children. This is something that I believe the public expect us to do now and our work will not end until we have truly made smoking a thing of the past”

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of health charity ASH said:

“Under Ailsa’s leadership, FRESH has had an unparalleled record of success in tackling smoking in the northeast and this award is well deserved. She has set up a model which has been successfully followed elsewhere by Tobacco Free Futures in the North West and Smokefree South West. But there’s more to be done, every region deserves, and needs, a FRESH of its own if we are to create a smokefree future for our children.”



Notes and Links:

Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. For more information see: www.ash.org.uk/about-ash

[1] The WHO’s World No Tobacco Day takes place on 31st May each year. To mark the occasion the WHO awards medals to individuals and organisations for their achievements in tobacco control. ASH was awarded a WHO medal in 2011.
For more information see: http://www.who.int/tobacco/wntd/en/

[2] FRESH / Smokefree NE was the first regional office for tobacco control in England.

The other two regional tobacco control offices are: Tobaccofree Futures covering the North West and Smokefree South West. (www.tobaccofreefutures.org   www.smokefreesouthwest.org.uk)
FRESH was awarded a Gold Medal in the in the Chief Medical Officer’s inaugural public health awards in 2009, and the Charles Cully Memorial Medal by the Irish Cancer Society in 2012

[3] In 2005 adult smoking prevalence in the North East was 29% compared to 24% in England. In 2011 the rates had fallen to 20% and 19% respectively. Source: General Lifestyle Survey, ONS, 2013.