Suffolk: Number of smokers in county on the rise

Smoking has risen in Suffolk

Smoking has risen in Suffolk - Credit: PA

People in Suffolk are taking up smoking, new figures have revealed.

The stress of a gloomy economic has been blamed on the county registering a slight rise in the number of smokers in the last three years, bucking a downward trend which spans back nationally to the 1950s.

Across the UK the percentage of smokers is expected to dip to the lowest point in a century, falling below 20% of the population.

But in Suffolk the prevalence of adult smokers has risen from 19.7% of the county’s population in 2009/10 to 20.4% in 2011/12 – figures for 2012/13 will be released in the autumn – according to the Suffolk Observatory.

Although a small rise, the 0.7% equates to around 3,750 extra people taking up the habit, based on 550,000 adults living in Suffolk.

Across the UK the level of smokers has fallen in the same time from 21% to 20%.

Dr Alan Murray, portfolio holder for health at Suffolk County Council said the figures are “disappointing” calling for more to be done to lengthen the time people are supported through quitting the habit.

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He said: “If these figures truly represent what is happening in Suffolk then they are disappointing.

“What I worry about is that smoking cessation services are always aimed at the first few weeks, longer term follow ups are necessary to maintain people’s efforts.”

Director of Live Well Suffolk (LWS), Tim Roberts, said the Integrated Household Survey, where the figures derive from, are based on a set number of people rather than the population as a whole.

Mr Roberts said the data is used to predict long-term trends.

He said LWS has helped 8,811 kick their habit since taking over the smoking cessation contract two years ago.

“There is no 100% accurate way of recording the number of smokers,” he said.

“The long term prevalence patterns are going down. But having said that, while it is expected to fall below 20% of the population for the first time, generally speaking the downward prevalence is slowing down.

“Smoking rates have been dropping since the 50s but they have been slowing because we are reaching the group of smokers more addicted and so finding it harder to quit.”

Mr Roberts said almost all brand new smokers are under 25 – and in that age group there does not show an increase in smokers in recent years.

But he said people do relapse and return to smoking despite quitting.

“People end up relapsing and the overarching reason is smoking is very addictive,” he added.

“It is quite common for smokers to have a number of relapses before quitting for good. Stress, especially in recent years with the economic climate, can be a trigger.

“The good thing is every time someone quits, if they relapse, they are more like quit eventually. Each time it becomes less addictive.

“It is important people see relapse as part of the quitting process and keep trying.”

LWS offer a range of services to help people quit the habit, ranging from one-to-one consultations to group sessions and clinics across Suffolk.

Mr Roberts said for those quitting through willpower alone the success rate is just 5%, compared to 50% when helped by a service like LWS.

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