SMOKING CLAIMS almost twice as many lives in the deprived urban areas of the North and of London as it does in rural England. In cities such as Newcastle and Manchester, up to 40 per cent of deaths are caused by smoking, while in the more prosperous country areas of Devon, Cornwall and East Anglia smoking accounts for 20 per cent of deaths.
More than 1,600 people a week died from smoking, equivalent to 86,500 a year, in England between 1998 and 2002. Almost two thirds of the deaths (62 per cent) were among men.
The unequal impact of the habit is revealed in a map published by the Health Development Agency showing death rates across the 303 primary care trusts (PCTs) in England. It is the first time estimates of smoking-related deaths have been made for local areas represented by each PCT.
Sir Liam Donaldson, the Government's chief medical officer, said: "We are in the grip of a smoking epidemic. An estimated 106,000 people in the UK are dying needlessly each year because of smoking. The HDA's report starkly sets out the scale of the problem." Next week a white paper on public health is due to be launched, which is expected to call for new curbs on smoking in England. Sir Liam has twice called on the Government to ban smoking in public - in his annual reports released in 2003 and 2004 - but the Secretary of State for Health, John Reid, has resisted.
The pressure on Mr Reid was increased this week with the decision by the Scottish Executive to ban smoking in all public places, following the lead of Ireland, where a ban was introduced last year.
Overall, 27 per cent of adults in England smoke. The highest rates, of 40 per cent, are among 25 to 34-year-olds. Most try at some point to give up and just over one third of adults are estimated to be former smokers. …