Vote YES to New Tobacco Law says Local Campaigner 

A local cancer campaigner, who lost her husband, sister, and mother to smoking related diseases is issuing a rallying cry for the region’s MPs to back a proposed law to raise the age of sale of tobacco.

The call from Stokes resident Ailsa Young, 77, who herself took up smoking in her teens, has made the plea as new analysis by Cancer Research UK estimates up to 850,000 fewer cigarettes will be smoked in the South West each day by 2040, if the legislation is successfully implemented.*

The legislation, introduced to Parliament on 20 March, is now heading towards a crucial vote later this spring. That’s why Alisa is urging the region’s MPs to make history by helping to create the first smokefree generation.

Between now and 2040 – around the time the first of these youngsters will turn 30 – the number of cigarettes that would go unsmoked across the UK would add up to tens of billions.

That’s if the Government’s best-case modelling of a 90% reduction in rates of young people across England taking up smoking is achieved.

This could have a profound impact in the South West, where tobacco kills one person every hour** and is responsible for around 4,500 cancer deaths each year.***

Ailsa understands the terrible toll of tobacco all too well and has been campaigning for the Government to do more to help stub out smoking.

She explains: “My parents were both smokers – my mother cigarettes and my father a pipe. I hated going to the cinema with them as the smoke always drifted my way. 

“And yet I took up smoking myself in my teens. My sister also took up the habit and she never ever confessed to my parents, yet she died in March 2022 of the same condition which my mother died of – lack of oxygen, COPD, her lungs couldn’t cope any more.

“Both my husband and I smoked heavily, from about 18 years old until our early thirties.  Roughly 40 cigarettes a day most of that time. 

“We both gave up but when I was bored or on my own, I did pick up the odd cigarette again and start. This went on and off for another two years until we moved again, and I thought OK, new house, new office, nobody knows I am a smoker, I will stop completely now and I did and have never touched a cigarette since and that was in 1985.”

But In 2015 Ailsa’s husband Robin was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and Emphysema.

Ailsa said: “He was told there was no telling how long he had left to live. His consultant told him that his lungs were producing a protein which hardened in his lungs and he would eventually suffocate and die.”

“He said he could have years left to live or it could be months, depending on how quickly it developed.  He had three reasonably good years but had to use a portable pack which took in air, refined it and fed him pure oxygen for the last 2 years. 

“He went downhill very rapidly in the fourth year, and it was also discovered that he had lung cancer which had spread very rapidly and widely and it was too late to do much about that. 

“Luckily he did not know this until the last couple of weeks before he went into hospital and died shortly afterwards.

 “If we can stop youngsters from starting to smoke, we can hopefully protect them from smoke related diseases, save them a lot of money and save the NHS a lot of money as well.”

“That’s why I’m backing this vitally important campaign and hope I can inspire others to do the same. We must do what we can to protect the next generation from a future of ill-health and disease by stubbing out smoking for good.”

“Smoking is a deadly addiction and, like my family, most people who smoke started when they were young and have tried to quit.**** I know they would have backed raising the age of sale of tobacco 100 per cent.

“The upcoming vote is a critical milestone towards ending the devastating effects of smoking. Victory is almost in sight, but for the sake of our children’s and grandchildren’s future, we cannot leave it to chance. Now, we must do everything we can to make sure MPs get this over the line.”  

Ailsa is calling on the public to email their MP and encourage them to vote in favour of the legislation at cruk.org/SmokefreeGeneration.

Tobacco is the one legal consumer product that will kill most of its users if used as instructed by the manufacturer. It causes at least 15 different types of cancer, including two of the most common, lung and bowel cancer.

While Cancer Research UK’s latest analysis focuses on cigarettes, all products that contain tobacco are harmful and increase cancer risk, so it has welcomed the Government’s announcement that the legislation will apply to all tobacco products -including heated tobacco devices.

The charity’s South West spokesperson, Ali Birkett, said: “The biggest cause of cancer has no place in our future. As our analysis suggests, fast-forward to 2040, and the statistics could tell a very different story. Up to 850,000 fewer cigarettes smoked each day in the region, would mean more people living longer, healthier lives, free from the fear of cancer.  

“We’re grateful to Ailsa for sharing her family’s heartbreaking story. Nothing would have a bigger impact on reducing the number of preventable deaths in the South West than ending smoking. So, we must make sure our MPs are behind this critically important Age of Sale legislation. Together, we can make a smokefree generation a reality.” 

Evidence shows that smoking rates go down with government action and its thanks to this that smoke-filled pubs and workplaces, tobacco advertising and branded packs have been consigned to the past.

Cancer Research UK says Age of Sale legislation is a vital next step on the journey to a smokefree UK and would create a lasting legacy for its young people that the nation can be proud of.

Play a part at cruk.org/SmokefreeGeneration

* Source: Calculated by Cancer Intelligence, 2024. Based on median number of cigarettes smoked per day by 18-34 year olds from the Health Survey for England, 2019. Available from https://beta.ukdataservice.ac.uk/datacatalogue/series/series?id=2000021, accessed November 2023. Estimated smoking prevalence projections for 14-30 year olds by 2040 from Department of Health & Social Care, Stopping the start: our new plan to create a smokefree generation. Available from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/stopping-the-start-our-new-plan-to-create-a-smokefree-generation, accessed November 2023. Smoking prevalence distribution by region and nation from Annual Population Survey, 2022. Available from https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/healthandlifeexpectancies/bulletins/adultsmokinghabitsingreatbritain/2022, accessed January 2024. Population estimates for 2020 from Office for National Statistics, 2022. Available fromhttps://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/populationprojections/datalist?filter=datasets, accessed November 2023. 
 
** Calculated by the Cancer Intelligence Team at Cancer Research UK. Based on 4,500 tobacco-attributable deaths in persons of all ages in the South West in 2019. This includes all disease types. Estimates from Institute for Health Metrics and Disease, Global Burden of Disease 2019. Available from https://vizhub.healthdata.org/gbd-results/ 
*** Institute for Health Metrics and Disease, Global Burden of Disease 2019. Available from https://vizhub.healthdata.org/gbd-results/    
 **** Papadakis et al. 2020. https://doi.org/10.1093/eurpub/ckaa082 
Sharma & Szatkowski 2014. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-14-346 

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