Today marks sixty years since doctors announced the link between smoking and lung cancer, yet smoking remains a major issue in the East London Lines boroughs, accounting for an astounding 15 per cent of all deaths in the boroughs between 2008 and 2010.
Death rates from smoking related illnesses, which include various cancers, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and diseases of the digestive system, in Tower Hamlets are higher than in any other borough in London according to the Department of Health.
Tower Hamlets Health and Wellbeing Board reports that 27 per cent of adults in the borough are current smokers compared to 21 per cent nationally; this is amongst the highest in the country and is particularly high among Bangladeshi males (42 per cent). Smoking was responsible for nearly 800 (24 per cent) of all deaths in Tower Hamlets between 2008 and 2010
In Hackney, deaths from smoking related illnesses were among the highest in London, accounting for 600 (18 per cent) deaths in the borough. Clean Air in London research shows that an estimated 25 per cent of adults aged 18 and over in Hackney were smokers, significantly higher than the national average of 20%.
According to the Department of Health, an estimated 21.3 per cent of adults in Lewisham are smokers. Smoking-related illnesses were responsible for 720 deaths in Lewisham.
Smoking in Croydon is not as prevalent as it is in the other boroughs with an estimated 17 per cent of adults being smokers. However, smoking-related illnesses were responsible for 679 deaths.
According to the department of Health “Smoking is the single greatest cause of preventable illness and premature death in the UK, and is one of the main determinants of health inequalities.”
Hazel Cheeseman, special projects advisor for Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said: “Smoking is directly linked to deprivation. It is no wonder that the rates are so high in the most deprived areas in London. The challenge is to get people to take action about their smoking through support and helping them cut down using nicotine replacement products.”
Smoking is responsible for more than half the difference in premature death rates between people on high incomes and those on low incomes
However, the fight to curb the high levels of smoking reached a milestone last Monday as MPs voted in favour of banning smoking in the car when children are present, following existing bans in Australia, Canada, South Africa and the US.
Simon Birkett, Founder and Director of Clean Air in London, said: “Governments should make every effort to discourage people from smoking in cars with children or elsewhere. Smoking is the biggest public health risk, narrowly beating the sum of other forms of air pollution, and the evidence is overwhelming and confirmed over decades”.