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Last Updated: Friday, 12 November, 2004, 17:55 GMT
Most smoking deaths in poor areas
Man lighting cigarette
86,500 deaths in England each year can be attributed to smoking
More than 1,600 people in England die each week because of smoking, with the greatest number of deaths occurring in the most deprived areas, a study says.

Some 86,500 people died in England on average each year from 1998 to 2002, the Health Development Agency said.

About 62% of the deaths were men and 38% were women.

The area with the highest proportion of smoking-related deaths was north Liverpool, where 43% of deaths in people over 35 were due to smoking.

This was followed by Knowsley, also on Merseyside, and Tower Hamlets in east London with 42%.

Harlow in Essex, Islington in north London, east Hull, central Liverpool, Southwark in south London and north Manchester all had smoking-related death rates of 40%.

Highest proportion of smoking deaths
North Liverpool 43%
Knowsley, Liverpool, 42%
Tower Hamlets, London, 42%

The lowest rates were in the west and south east.

In East Devon 23% of deaths in over-35s were down to smoking.

In Bexhill and Rother, East Sussex, and Uttlesford, Essex, the figure stood at 24%.

It is the first time the figures have been broken down on a regional level and has led to renewed calls for anti-smoking measures in the Public Health White Paper, which is due to be published next week.

Deborah Arnott, director of campaign charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said: "The study clearly shows that the highest rates of smoking deaths and smoking is in the most deprived areas.

The rich people come in and buy four or five packs at once - because they can afford it
Raja Khan

"If the government is serious about tackling health inequalities it should introduce a smoking ban in public places and work places."

Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, the chief medical officer, said the country was in the "grip of a smoking epidemic".

"Smoking isn't just a national problem, these figures show clearly how our local communities are affected.

"I believe this will be a useful document for everyone working to tackle the prevalence of smoking in this country."

And Dame Yve Buckland, chair of the Health Development Agency, added: "Smoking is an important cause of health inequalities - the poorer you are, the more likely you are to smoke, you're less likely to quit and you're more likely to die from smoking related causes."

The report, The Smoking Epidemic in England, produced by the University of Portsmouth for the HDA, showed that 85% of lung cancer deaths were estimated to be smoking attributable with 17,400 deaths from chronic obstructive lung disease being caused by smoking.

About 11,500 deaths from ischaemic heart disease, caused by the inadequate flow of blood, among those over 65 were estimated to be due to smoking.

But overall smoking deaths dropped from 120,000 a year in 1995 to 106,000 a year between 1998 and 2002 across the UK - a fall largely attributable to the falling number of smokers.

Lowest proportion of smoking deaths
East Devon 23%
Bexhill and Rother, East Sussex, 24%
Uttlesford, Essex, 24%

In 1974 45% of the population smoked but in 2003 the figure had fallen to 26%.

Simon Clark, director of smoker's lobby group Forest, said to say it was an epidemic was "crackers" and was bringing the anti-smoking lobby into disrepute.

"I think this is just an attempt to bully the government into bringing in a smoking ban.

"Statistics can be very misleading. I am not saying smoking is not harmful but smokers also often lead unhealthy lifestyles and eat a poor diet and this contributes to death as well."

A British Medical Association spokeswoman said the report made "depressing reading".

"As doctors we know that behind all these statistics lie personal tragedies. This so-called 'pleasure' is costing people their lives."


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
The impact of tobacco on England's health



SEE ALSO:
Scotland smoking ban to go ahead
10 Nov 04 |  Scotland
Smoking ban: What they said
10 Nov 04 |  Scotland
Living in an anti-smoking climate
10 Nov 04 |  Scotland
Timeline: Smoking and disease
22 Jun 04 |  Health


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