Plea for public vote on smoking ban

ONE of the most important figures in the Essex health sector last night demanded a referendum on banning smoking in public spaces.Brendan Osborne, chief executive of Colchester Primary Care Trust (PCT), made the radical call ahead of a study out today which reveals 50 people in the county die every week of smoking related illnesses.

ONE of the most important figures in the Essex health sector last night demanded a referendum on banning smoking in public spaces.

Brendan Osborne, chief executive of Colchester Primary Care Trust (PCT), made the radical call ahead of a study out today which reveals 50 people in the county die every week of smoking related illnesses.

He is due to talk to Colchester Borough Council officials today about a public vote, which would be one of the first of its kind.

A report published this morning by the NHS Health Development Agency (HDA) claims England is in the midst of a smoking epidemic.


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The research reveals that between 1998 and 2002, an average of 2,600 people died from smoking every year in Essex with men far more likely to suffer than women.

While 27% of all adults in Essex are now smokers, the county's men are more than one-and-a-half times more likely to die due to the effects of smoking than women, the report's researchers at Portsmouth University found.

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They calculated that in Colchester 28% of all adults were smokers and another 31% were ex-smokers. In Tendring smokers accounted for 25% of the population while 36% had quit.

They also found that smoking prevalence was higher in more deprived areas.

The HDA report, The Smoking Epidemic in England, estimated that 8,000 people in the east of England “die needlessly” from smoking every year.

Mr Osborne, who is hoping to persuade PCT board colleagues in January to back his plan for a public ban, said that based on the HDA research there were 300 people dying every year in Colchester of smoking.

“That has a terrible impact on families,” he said.

“Although there's a lot of people giving up, more and more youngsters are taking it up because they think it's cool.

“Personally, I think they look like sad wannabes. Future generations will look back at us incredulously that we allowed smoking at all and I think the next natural step after a public spaces ban will be to outlaw cigarettes altogether.

“I'm convinced most people are against smoking in pubs and other public places. It's certainly a good idea to hold a referendum on the proposals - I'll call the council tomorrow,” he added.

The report's academics looked at the number of people who had died from diseases that have known links to smoking, such as respiratory failure, heart disease and lung cancer.

From those people they investigated how many had been smokers in their lifetime, allowing them to calculate mortality rates attributable to smoking.

Sue White, spokeswoman for the Colchester and Tendring Stop Smoking Support Service, said the figures reflected her own experiences in the area.

She said: “We've found smoking is far more prevalent among poorer people. Whereas 20% of the professional classes smoke, the number in poorer sections of society is up to 50%.

“Among homeless people, 90% are addicted,” she added.

Carol Ryley, public health manager at the Essex Strategic Health Authority (SHA), said they were working closely with local governments to bring down rates of smoking in the county.

During 2003/4, NHS Stop Smoking services helped more than 5,000 people give up with new initiatives planned for next year, she said.

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