Dangers of smoking still not hitting home to young people in Islington

Fifty years on from landmark report and 25 per cent of the borough’s residents smoke.

This week marks the 50th anniversary of a landmark report by the Royal College of Physicians that conclusively proved the link between smoking and lung cancer.

Half a century on and it seems the message still hasn’t hit home for many people in Islington.

Twenty-five per cent of the borough’s adults smoke, the second-highest rate in London after Hackney and well above the 21 per cent national average.

Cllr Janet Burgess, Islington Council’s executive member for health, said: “It’s the biggest cause of premature death in Islington.

“That’s not to mention the fact smokers live years of their life in bad health.

“Poorer people in Islington have 17 years of worse health towards the end of their lives and much of that is down to smoking.

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“Quitting smoking is by far the best thing you can do to improve your health.”

Cllr Burgess quit smoking herself some years ago.

She added: “It was partly because my father lived to 87 with terrible health.”

She is supporting the Deborah Hutton Campaign, launched by the Gazette and its sister papers last month to stop young people from picking up the habit.

Deborah Hutton was an acclaimed journalist who died from smoking-related lung cancer in 2009 at the age of 49 – even though she gave up cigarettes 25 years earlier, aged 24.

Her case highlights how the habit can have dire consequences even when it is kicked fairly early on in life – so the only sensible option is to quit now.

Cllr Burgess added: “It’s very worrying. But it should not put people off quitting smoking at any particular age, because it always has a dramatic affect however old you are.”

Smoking costs the NHS �10.7million a year in Islington, while residents spend �61.7million on cigarettes.

In 2009, NHS Islington estimated more than 500 children aged 10 to 14 were regular smokers.

Records from 2009 also show the borough’s cessation services were used by 43 under-18s and a further 704 people aged 18 to 34.

An NHS Islington spokesman said: “National statistics suggest that up to five per cent of 11 to 15 year olds smoke regularly with a further 27 per cent of children having tried it at least once.

“They also indicate a strong link between the smoking behaviour of parents and families and the habits of young people.

“The effects of smoking upon young people include the whole range of symptoms that adults experience, but with a further increased risk of cancer.

“Younger teenagers should know that smoking will affect your physical fitness, meaning your chance of scoring that winning goal for your school goes way down.

“Teens over 16 may be interested to know that smoking can cause bad breath, impotence, and poor stamina levels which will have a negative impact on your sex life.

“To top it all off, with the average pay for part time jobs for under 21s being quite low, a 20-a-day habit will likely cost you over �2,000 a year, which could be spent on much better things.

“In addition to these factors, research and statistics indicate a strong link between smoking and future negative behaviour including alcohol and drug use as well as truancy and exclusion from school.”

n Anyone looking to stop smoking should visit www.smokefreeislington.nhs.uk or call 0800 093 9030