Have your say on smoking ban

By Jonathan BarnesA NEW campaign is being launched today for the people of East Anglia to have their say over whether smoking bans should be introduced in the region.

By Jonathan Barnes

A NEW campaign is being launched today for the people of East Anglia to have their say over whether smoking bans should be introduced in the region.

The East of England Public Health Group wants people who live and work in the region to take part in the Big Smoke Debate on whether public places such as pubs, clubs, restaurants and shopping centres should become smoke-free zones.

Smoking is responsible for 18% of deaths on the east of England and is estimated to have caused 9,750 deaths in 1999.

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Gina Radford, regional director of public of health, said: "The results of the debate will provide us with a key insight to public wishes on this topic and aid us in making a key decision.

"Second-hand smoking has always been called passive smoking - but it damages health and there is nothing passive about that."

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The Suffolk Stop Smoking Service - which helps and encourages people to quit the habit - said rising numbers of women were suffering from smoking-related diseases.

Hilary Andrews, co-ordinator of the service, said 40% of women in their early 20s were smokers and added: "There has been a rise in the number of women who smoke and it is prevalent in young women and girls.

"It's really concerning to see a rise in lung cancer in women. It is traditionally thought of as a male disease, like coronary heart disease, but women are now as likely to be smokers as men."

She continued: "The problem with smoking-related diseases is they don't start to show until about 20 years after somebody has been smoking. There's always a delay.

"If somebody continues to smoke, it is the single biggest risk to their health. If someone smokes for a couple of months and gives up, relatively speaking they will not have done themselves any harm.

"But, if they continue, it is the biggest issue for their health because it kills 50% of people who smoke through their lives. There's no disputing the facts and figures. People just think that it won't happen to them."

"The message is that if you do start smoking, never mind, but please try to stop sooner rather than later."

Mrs Andrews said she hoped people would take part in the east of England's Big Smoke Debate and make their views known on smoking in public places.

"We are very much in support of having a debate about smoking in public places. Our view is that tobacco smoke is poisonous and we have to be more aware of how people are exposed to it," she added.

"This is about public knowledge - not about whether you smoke or not - and the results will be used to plan for the future. Personally, I believe workplaces definitely should be smoke-free."

The Big Smoke Debate runs from today to the June 20. People can also log their views by visiting www.smokefreeeast.co.uk or calling 01223 372850 for a copy of the questionnaire.

n Finance experts have been called in to help primary care trusts that are struggling under millions of pounds of debts.

Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority has sent in a team to help trusts in Suffolk get to grips with the huge overspends they were left with at the end of the financial year.

Suffolk's primary care trusts looked to face an £11million debt between them at the end of last month.


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