Smokers in South Tyneside are being encouraged to kick their habit and make a fresh start in the New Year.
South Tyneside Council is reiterating the warning from Fresh and Public Health England (PHE) that smokers are putting themselves at risk of serious lung diseases such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
COPD is the umbrella term for serious lung conditions that include chronic bronchitis and emphysema. People with COPD have difficulties breathing, primarily due to the narrowing of their airways and destruction of lung tissue. Typical symptoms include breathlessness when active, a persistent cough and frequent chest infections.
Councillor Moira Smith, South Tyneside Council's Lead Member for Public Health and Wellbeing, said: "While smoking rates are coming down in South Tyneside we know that around one in five people in the Borough still smoke. Smoking is our biggest cause of ill health and diseases such as COPD can severely affect your quality of life.
"As COPD damages the lungs simple things which many people take for granted such as walking up the stairs and going outside in the cold could have sufferers struggling for breath.
"If you smoke and are coughing regularly or getting out of breath please don't ignore the signs. The best thing a smoker can do to improve their health is quit the habit. There is lots of support available through accessing Change4Life South Tyneside, a wellbeing programme that offers advice and information on quitting smoking and leading a healthier life."
Latest figures show COPD led to 9,240 hospital admissions in the North East in 2013-14. Nationally, this figure stands at 113,000 emergency hospital admissions in England in 2013-143.
Alongside the impact on quality on life, 5,192 deaths in the North East between 2012 and 2014 were attributable to COPD. At 70.7 deaths per 100,000 population, the North East figures are higher than the national average of 51.7 deaths per 100,000. Around 86% of national COPD deaths are caused by smoking.
Ailsa Rutter, Director of Fresh, said: "COPD may not be well known but it can be a serious and severely debilitating disease, dramatically affecting people's lives and leading to years of suffering.
"The single best thing a smoker can do to reduce their chances of developing this devastating disease and the impact on their loved ones is to stop smoking. January is a time when many people make New Year's resolutions and resolving to stop smoking is the best thing you can do not only for your health but for the health of those around you. Search 'Smokefree' online or visit your local stop smoking service to get the help and support you need to quit smoking for good."
Smokers looking to quit are being encouraged to contact Change4Life South Tyneside on (0191) 424 7300or visit the website at www.change4lifesouthtyneside.co.uk