Leeds health experts target smoking risks

Leeds City Council’s Public Health team is backing the new Smokefree Health Harms campaign from Public Health England, highlighting the impact and serious damage that smoking causes the body.

The campaign, supported by TV advertising, brings to life the toxic cycle of dirty blood caused by inhaling the dangerous chemicals in cigarettes, including arsenic and cyanide flowing through the body and damaging major organs. The chemicals move through the heart, the lungs and into the bloodstream, finally damaging cells in the brain.

Dr Ian Cameron, Director of Public Health for Leeds, said:

“Smoking remains one of the biggest killers in Leeds, with half of all smokers dying because of it. Leeds has a higher than average number of smokers, and even though the trend is reducing, in some areas of the city more than a third of adults smoke. If people want help to give up, there is help available. It is never too late to give up, and it is never too soon to give up either.”

Along with the heart and lungs, the brain is particularly vulnerable to these toxins, leading to a faster decline in functionality and an increased risk of stroke and dementia. Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that smokers are twice as likely to die from a stroke as non-smokers . Smoking can cause the arteries to narrow which, in turn, increases the likelihood of blood clots that can lead to a stroke.

Studies also suggest smoking accelerates cognitive decline in men and women leading smokers to experience poorer memory and a greater decline in reasoning in later life. The risk of dementia, along with cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer are further increased when smoking is combined with any or all of heavy drinking, poor diet, lack of exercise and high blood pressure

Anyone looking to quit can visit www.nhs.uk/smokefree to receive free support tools and find details of local professional advice available through the NHS stop smoking service.

Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, said:

“We know about the serious effect smoking has on the heart and lungs but smokers need to be aware of how much potential damage is being done to the brain and other vital organs through toxins in cigarettes entering the blood.

“Smoking is the major cause of premature death, with one in two smokers dying prematurely from smoking related diseases, and it is extremely worrying that people still underestimate the health harms associated with it.

“However, it is not all doom and gloom for smokers looking to quit this New Year. Within five years of stopping smoking, your risk of stroke can be reduced to the same as a lifetime non-smoker.”

Research Associate at University College London, Dr Gareth Hagger-Johnson, who conducted one of the studies into cognitive function, said:

“Accelerated decline in cognitive reasoning and memory is more advanced in smokers, with one of our studies at UCL showing it to be nearly 38% faster in persistent male smokers compared to non-smokers.

“The decline in the brain’s cognitive powers is naturally seen with ageing but there are a number of identifiable risk factors, including smoking and heavy alcohol consumption, which can be associated with an accelerated rate of decline. Healthy behaviours in midlife may help preserve cognitive function into early old age, but all smokers should consider quitting to help protect their brain from serious long term harm.”

Joe Korner, Director of External Affairs at Stroke Association, said:

“It is well known that smoking harms our health but the link between smoking and stroke is less well known. Stroke is a major cause of death and adult disability in the UK and you are twice as likely to have a stroke if you smoke. The more you smoke, the more your risk increases.

“Stopping smoking is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk of stroke; after five years of giving up, your risk of stroke can be reduced to that of a non-smoker. We welcome the NHS Smokefree Health Harms campaign to tackle this serious issue.”

Professor Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing for Public Health England, said:

“More than eight million people smoke in England, and with half of long-term smokers dying prematurely from a smoking-related disease, highlighting the unseen damaging effect smoking has on the body’s major organs provides a real motivation for people to stop.

“As well as the impact smoking has on the brain, smokers are also more likely to have a stroke, so this hard-hitting campaign will, I hope, help smokers consider quitting. There is a wealth of health and personal benefits available to those who successfully stop and help can be sought through the full range of Smokefree support, which includes face-to-face advice, Smokefree app, Quit Kit, plus email and text programmes.”

- Ends -

Notes to editors

Yorkshire and the Humber - Smoking prevalence per 100,000 of the population is as follows:

Barnsley 25.63 %

Bradford 21.45 %

Calderdale 22.00 %

Doncaster 26.98 %

East Riding and Yorkshire 17.21 %

Kingston upon Hull 22.87 %

Kirklees 23.58 %

Leeds 23.05 %

North East Lincolnshire 27.35 %

North Lincolnshire 22.87 %

North Yorkshire 16.71 %

Rotherham 23.31 %

Sheffield 21.57 %

Wakefield 23.02 %

York 17.12 %

1. Copies of all materials, including the TV adverts, can be downloaded from https://www.dropbox.com/sh/a3y1y3ma7kybcik/Rdh9gttP5U

2. The full range of Smokefree support - which includes face-to-face advice, Smokefree app, Quit Kit, email and text programmes – can be accessed via the Smokefree website: www.nhs.uk/smokefree

3. In 2010/11 among adults aged 35 and over, there were approximately 1.5 million hospital admissions with a primary diagnosis of a disease that can be caused by smoking (NHS Information centre) http://www.hscic.gov.uk/catalogue/PUB07019

4. The UCL Whitehall study was based on 5,099 men and 2,137 women. For the data behind nearly 38%, please refer to Table 3 in the above paper.

5. Cognitive function is an umbrella term for different mental skills that overlap: reasoning, fluency, memory, vocabulary etc.

6. The following academic papers further highlights how smoking affects the cognitive decline:

a. Cigarette Smoking and Cognitive Decline in Midlife: Evidence from a Prospective Birth Cohort Study – Marcus Richards, PhD, Martin.J.Jarvis, DSc, Neil Thompson, BSc and Michael E.J.Wadsworth, PhD (2003) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447882/

b. Cardiovascular risk factors and cognitive decline in adults aged 50 and over: a population-based cohort study – Dregan A, Stewart R, Gulliford MC. (Nov 2012) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23179255

7. The Stroke Association’s Helpline (0303 303 3100) provides information and support on stroke. More information can be found at www.stroke.org.uk

8. For more information on PHE visit www.gov.uk/phe or follow us on Twitter @PHE_uk

9. Leaflets, posters and digital assets are also available for stakeholders to order through our Smokefree resource centre www.smokefree.nhs.uk/resources/

Issued by:

Phil Morcom

Communications and Marketing team – Public Health

Leeds City Council

4th Floor West, Civic Hall, Leeds, LS1 1UR

Mobile: 0772 227 5370

Tel: 0113 395 0393

Fax: 0113 247 4736