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Tobacco to Cause 1.35m New Smoking-Related Illnesses over Next 20 Years

Tobacco is expected to cause around 1.35 million new cases of smoking-related illnesses over the next 20 years, according to a new report by Cancer Research UK and the UK Health Forum.

Cancer Research UK calculate that included within this shocking total, there will be more than 580,500 cases of cancer. Smoking remains the largest preventable cause of cancer in the UK and the biggest cause of premature death.

The number of people smoking in the UK has decreased over the last 35 years, largely due to tobacco control policies such as the tobacco duty escalator, restrictions on tobacco marketing and bans on smoking in the workplace. If current trends continue, the number of UK smokers is expected to fall to around 10 per cent by 2035.

But a report by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) endorsed by Cancer Research UK and the UK Health Forum, proposes new targets for the Department of Health’s Tobacco Control Strategy for England to accelerate the decline in the number of people smoking over the next 10 years and aim for a ‘tobacco-free’ UK by 2035, where less than five per cent of the UK population smoke across all socio-economic groups.

According to Cancer Research UK, achieving this ambition could result in around 97,000 fewer new cases of smoking-related illnesses over the next 20 years, including more than 36,000 cases of cancer.

The ‘Aiming High’ report states that the poorest in society will increasingly bear the burden of smoking-related diseases over the next 20 years with 15.7 per cent of men and 14.3 per cent of women from the most deprived income quintile predicted to smoke in 2035, compared to 2.4 per cent of men and 2.6 per cent of women from the wealthiest income quintile.

Stop Smoking Services and anti-tobacco media campaigns are both essential measures in persuading those from the most hard-to-reach groups to give up smoking, but both measures are being hampered by on-going Government cuts to budgets for stop smoking services.

If recent trends continue, tobacco-related diseases could cost the NHS more than £540m in direct costs in 2035 and more than £3bn in indirect societal costs.

Achieving a tobacco-free ambition would avoid around £67m in direct NHS costs, and almost £550m in indirect societal costs in 2035 alone.

Alison Cox, Director for Cancer Prevention at Cancer Research UK, said: “Decades of work have gone into reducing the number of people who will be affected by a tobacco related illness. There’s been great progress, but unless more is done, another generation of lives will be devastated by smoking.

“Recent figures have started to show that the decline in smoking rates is stalling so these estimates could be considered optimistic. If we lose focus then the burden of preventable disease could threaten the sustainability of the NHS and social care.”

Smoking still kills around 100,000 people in the UK every year and smoking rates remain stubbornly high for those from the most deprived backgrounds and people with long-term health conditions.

These projections show the worrying extent of damage smoking is expected to inflict on society, particularly those on low incomes. Giving up smoking is the single best thing anyone who smokes can do to improve their health and reduce their chances of getting cancer. In turn, the best thing a Government can do for the health of the population is to reduce the number of people who smoke.

It is vital the Government does everything it can to achieve a tobacco-free future and reduce the number of people dying each year from smoking-related diseases such as lung cancer.

If lung cancer is diagnosed and treated early the chances of a positive outcome are significantly higher than if it is found later. Delays in diagnosis or treatment due to misinterpreting x-rays, scans and tissue samples can cause tumours to develop to a more advanced stage. Such errors can obviously have devastating consequences on any eventual outcome.

Rabia Ibrahim is a clinical negligence solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.

Slater and Gordon help people who have suffered from delayed or wrong diagnosis of cancer due to medical negligence. For a free consultation call our medical negligence solicitors on freephone 0800 916 9049 or contact us online.

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