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“Smoking is the leading cause of statistics,” American fiction writer Fletcher Knebel is famously credited with saying in 1961. With the debate as to the harmfulness of cigarettes long since settled, today’s smoking statistics show rates in the UK to be but a fraction of what they were back then. But deaths tied to tobacco consumption remain high, with some areas continuing to buck the overall trend to an alarming degree. Check Express.co.uk’s map below to see how your local area fares.
Efforts to reduce cigarette consumption have been ongoing for over half a century. While the Fifties brought the Marlboro Man, the new millennium brought the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002.
Recently, with a renewed focus on health and well-being after the pandemic, legislative momentum has picked up. In December, New Zealand became the first country in the world to implement an annually rising smoking age, barring the sale of tobacco to anyone born on or after January 1, 2009.
Last month, lawmakers in California filed similar legislation – hoping to mimic the policy for the US’s most populous state. A range of regulations exist in the UK, but no such ban has thus far been tabled.
In 2019, the Government set an objective for England to be smoke-free by 2030 – in practice meaning only five percent of the population would be lighting up regularly. The latest figures show 12.7 percent of Britons smoked in 2021, but a closer investigation reveals just how widely this figure varies across the country.
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As a proportion of the general population, Oadby and Wigston – a small local authority covering the two suburban towns to the southeast of Leicester – was found to have the lowest smoking rate of all at just 3.2 percent.
At the bottom of the list, the council was followed by West Oxfordshire (3.7 percent), Waverley (4.4 percent) and Sevenoaks (4.8 percent). Only these four areas were below the Government’s desired threshold in 2021.
The unenviable title of having the most smokers per capita in the country goes to Fenland in Cambridgeshire, where 27.8 percent of the population needs regular nicotine boosts. The area is one of only two remaining boroughs in the country where over a quarter of the population smoke, alongside Hastings (25.8 percent).
With Fenlandians more than eight times more likely to be smokers than the residents of Oadby and Wigston, the local authority has hosted numerous campaigns to tackle the issue. Research by the Wisbech Primary Care Network found 22 young people in Cambridgeshire start smoking every week – equivalent to 1,141 a year.
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A year ago, then-health secretary Sajid Javid, said: “Richer communities get healthier – and healthier communities get richer. Healthy people work more, learn more and earn more.” Stronger than the link between health and wealth is that between smoking and excess mortality.
Responsible for approximately 74,600 deaths a year in England alone, according to Action on Smoking and Health, smoking is the primary cause of preventable illness, proven to harm “nearly every organ of the body”. About half of all lifelong smokers die prematurely, the charity claims – losing an average of ten years of life.
Cancer Research UK said tobacco inhalation was to blame for 55,000 cancer deaths in the UK in 2019 – more than a quarter (28 percent) of the total.
According to a report prepared by experts at Now Patient, Glasgow City experiences more smoking-related deaths per 100,000 residents than anywhere else in the UK at 509. Scotland’s former industrial powerhouse was followed by Dundee (448), Kingston upon Hull (420) and North Lanarkshire (415).
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