Young women 'ignoring smoking risks'
ALMOST half of young women in East Anglia continue to smoke despite the health risks, worrying new figures have revealed. Last night doctors and anti-smoking campaigners said they were extremely concerned by the trend and feared it could lead to more women dying from lung cancer.
ALMOST half of young women in East Anglia continue to smoke despite the health risks, worrying new figures have revealed.
Last night doctors and anti-smoking campaigners said they were extremely concerned by the trend and feared it could lead to more women dying from lung cancer.
The shocking statistics are revealed in a smoking cessation report to be considered at a meeting of the East of England Strategic Health Authority on Thursday.
According to the paper 46% of young women and 32% of young men living in East Anglia aged 16-24 currently smoke.
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There are 8,300 deaths a year in the region attributable to smoking, the equivalent of 23 a day, the report claims.
Doctors and health officials have put the trend down to peer pressure as well as the stresses of modern day society.
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Dr Janet Massey, Suffolk secretary of the British Medical Association, said: “There has been a worrying increase in the number of women who are being treated for lung cancer.
“Unfortunately peer pressure is a very big factor. We are trying to get more nurses into schools and work with young people to try and discourage them.
“It is a very great concern because we are also starting to see different types of cancer develop in women which may be more difficult to spot.”
Brian Keeble, lead director of public health for Suffolk, said he was not surprised by the figures because over the last decade women had been taking up smoking at a greater rate.
“I think peer pressure and role models does have something to do with it,” he said. “It's interesting more young women are smoking than young men because they have ideals of what they should look like and maybe start smoking because they think it will keep their weight down.
“It is an area of concern and an important challenge. Unfortunately giving people health messages at that age doesn't seem to have an impact because when you are in your teens and told you will die at 65 rather than 75 it seems a lifetime away and doesn't sink in.”
The report also shows that in the last three years primary care trusts (PCTs) in Suffolk have failed to meet their smoking cessation targets although Essex has performed better than expected.
The worst PCT in Suffolk was Suffolk Coastal achieving only 77% of its target figure, having treated 1,079 people wanting to quit smoking between 2003 and 2006 compared to the planned 1,401.
Waveney was the top performer treating 2,015 compared to the planned 2,073 (97.2%).
In Essex the PCTs consistently bettered their targets with Colchester seeing 2,739 people compared to the expected 2,369 and Tendring 2,927 compared to the planned 2,647.
Mr Keeble defended the performance of the PCTs in Suffolk, saying the size of the Government imposed targets made them impossible to achieve.
“It makes it seem as if the service is actually failing but in reality we have had more and more people join wanting to get help,” he said.
Hilary Andrews, co-ordinator of Suffolk Stop Smoking Service and a member of Smoke Free Suffolk, said many people are still unsure about getting help because they think it will be expensive.
She said: “What they don't realise is that the service is available on the NHS and is only as much as the cost of a prescription.”
A spokesman for Suffolk West PCT said although it did not achieve its three year target the number of people successfully quitting had risen year-on-year from 459 in 2002/-3 to 568, 965 and 1,122 in the following years.
A spokesman for Colchester PCT said Essex was the only one of the six counties in the East of England where every PCT exceeded its stop smoking target.