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Tobacco it's a smoking gun

Tobacco: a smoking gun (2016)

Tobacco it's a smoking gun


Alice Wiseman, Gateshead Director for Public Health

I am incredibly proud to be presenting you with my very first annual report as the Director of Public Health for Gateshead. 

My report this year tells the story of our ambition for a smoke-free Gateshead, a place where our communities are not affected by the harm caused by tobacco. 

In these pages, I've tried to describe the many different ways that people are affected by smoking, from causing or exacerbating poverty, to illness and early death. 

I want to be clear from the outset that this report contains no judgement of people's individual choices. In fact, I believe it is the opposite. I recognise the way that people and communities have been intentionally influenced by powerful corporations who have a vested interest in maintaining smoking rates as high as possible.

A quote from an RJ Reynolds executive resonates deeply with me as we continue to fight to address this harm . 
When asked why he didn't smoke, he replied: "We don't smoke that s*** , we just sell it. We reserve the right to smoke for the young, the poor, the black and the stupid."

This quote illuminates the unacceptable way that these lethal products are targeted. Some people, in some communities, are still more likely to be negatively affected by smoking and I believe that this is wholly unacceptable.

Every year 462 people die in Gateshead as a result of smoking. As a consequence, every year, in order to maintain their profit levels, the tobacco industry replies to those deaths, with its ability to recruit the same number of new smokers from our young people.

My report is based on the testimony and voices of people living and working in Gateshead. Young people shared their views on smoking and the impact it has on their lives. Colleagues told us about the impact that smoking has on creating and exacerbating poverty, the daily messages our doctors have to give to families affected by the harm, as well as some of the challenging and often tragic journeys that people in our communities have travelled as a result of smoking.

I am sincerely grateful for the time people took out of their lives to share their experiences and personal stories. 

My report is also influenced by my own personal story. The story of my wonderful and inspiring Dad who sadly lost his short fight for life aged only 54 as a result of smoking. I remember that day with the vividness that seems to be saved for those critical points that really change your direction in life. John Wiseman, my Dad, avid Gateshead FC fan, reader in African politics, passionate about equality and human rights, devoted husband, father and grandfather. A life cut short, a family robbed.

Sadly my story is far from unique. Most people, if not everyone, reading this report will be able to tell a similar story of tragedy, of gaping holes in people's lives, of missed birthdays, holidays, weddings and graduations and that irreplaceable source of support when days are hard.

When is enough, really enough? 

Gateshead has an incredible history of doing the right thing in the fight against tobacco. Of advocating for battles that no one thinks we will ever win! As a community we have been one of the loudest in standing up for the things we think will make the biggest difference. We've led the fight against the harm of second hand smoke and also the promotion of these lethal products. But there is so much more to do.

My challenge for you is here, whilst we have won many battles along the way the war is by no means over. It will only be over when we can truly say we are a smoke-free community, where no one, irrespective of their personal circumstances or where they live, is adversely affected by tobacco.

We, Gateshead, need you to step up as an individual, a family, a community or an organisation and support us in the war. We need you to help us drive forward with the things we know we need to do as well as helping us find all the other things, that will make a difference but that, we are not yet sure of.

We will do whatever it takes to end the harm that is caused to our families and communities by tobacco. I call for us to all to stand together and to insist that enough is now enough!

Read the full report. (PDF) [1MB]