In July Paul Lambert from Public Health, Leeds City Council led a Leaders for Leeds session on ‘Health, Wealth & Happiness’…
Leeds has a big ambition – to be the best city in the UK. This is a bold ambition and trying to achieve it requires among other things – strong leadership, big decisions and a long term strategy. One of the key priorities in achieving this ambition is to improve the health and wellbeing of the people of Leeds. This will not be easy, because health is affected by a magnitude of social, economic and environmental factors and not just down to biology or individual choices.
From the day we are born our environment, parents and peers are hugely influential on our lifestyle choices. For example children whose parents smoke are 3 times more likely to become smokers than children of non-smoking households. At the recent leaders for Leeds breakfast meeting I presented at, I highlighted how helping people to quit smoking is not only good for the individual; it’s good for their family and also good for society and the economy. It’s a common mistaken belief that smoking is good for the economy, generating huge sums of money for the state, whereas the reality is that smoking is a huge economic burden on society. For example every £1 spent on tobacco, less than 10p stays in the local economy. What is left is poor health, smaller incomes and greater dependency on the state. In 2014/15, smokers in Leeds paid approximately £124m in duty on tobacco products. Despite the contribution to exchequer, smoking costs Leeds approximately £220.7m (roughly twice as much as the duty raised), resulting in a shortfall of about £97m each year. These costs include things such as medication to treat smoking related disease and social care costs but also indirect cost such as loss of productivity, fire damage and environmental harms from cigarette litter.
The good news is that recent figures released show that smoking prevalence in Leeds is down to 18.5%, the lowest ever, although still above the national average of 16.9%. Unfortunately smoking is still high among routine and manual workers at 29% and those on low incomes who are least able to afford it, most likely to suffer material hardship and most likely to suffer increased hardship because of their expenditure on tobacco. The sad news is that smoking is a childhood addiction with around 88% of current smokers starting before they are 18, but if you get to your 26th birthday without smoking the chances are you’ll never start.
No parent wants their children to smoke, but every day in Yorkshire 51 children take up smoking and these children are likely to have a lifetime habit and all the negatives consequences associated with it. That’s why I’m supporting and presented Breathe2025 which is a campaign to inspire children to grow up smokefree and protected from health harms caused by tobacco. Breathe2025 is a collaboration of partners across Yorkshire and Humber including Leeds City Council and Public Health England and is about how all of us (parents, family members, organisations and communities) can inspire and help them make a smokefree generation.
We must be remember that tobacco is a unique product in that when used as intended prematurely kills 1 out of every 2 of its users. No other product does this and as a society we should be doing everything we can to reduce its harm and ensure a smokefree generation. By doing this we really will have better health, wealth and happiness.
So over to you… what can you do to inspire a smokefree generation?
Public Health, Leeds City Council