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"...the importance of public health has never been greater. There is increasing recognition that we cannot afford to simply take a mop and bucket approach to smoking and other public health problems. We must do more to prevent them in the first place. There are some shining examples of achievement in the field of prevention, of which the North East region, represented by its regional tobacco office Fresh, is one."
Sir Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer, 1998-2010.


After Fresh was set up in 2005, the decline in smoking fell at twice the national average for six years. Smoking in the North East has fallen from 29% in 2005 to 17.2% in 2016 . This is a reduction of nearly 211,000 people smoking since 2005; a fall of 41% which has been the largest in England. Youth smoking rates have also fallen.


The region has also seen the highest reduction in smoking during pregnancy; from 22.2% of women smoking at the time of delivery in 2009/10 down to 16% in 2016. This follows a concerted programme in the region working with midwives in NHS Trusts to embed NICE guidance by identifying women who smoke during pregnancy and referring them to stop smoking support. There have been calls nationwide for the North East approach to be rolled out nationally.


Ailsa Rutter, Director of Fresh was awarded the World Health Organisation's World No Tobacco Day medal in 2014 in recognition of outstanding work to tackle smoking in the North East and an OBE in the Queens New Year Honours in 2017 for services to tobacco control. 


In 2014 Fresh won an NHS Leadership Recognition Award for Outstanding Collaborative Leadership, which stated: "the Fresh team has worked with hundreds of local, regional and national partners. It has achieved through world-class programmes and developing passionate and committed leaders across various fields."


The partnership work won Fresh the Gold Medal in the inaugural Chief Medical Officer's Public Health Awards in 2009.


Fresh was recognised for our work in the North East to reduce smoking prevalence and prevent cancer when we were awarded the Charles Cully Memorial Medal by the Irish Cancer Society, who visited the North East to look at ways to help reduce smoking in Ireland (pictured - Prof Eugene Milne, former North East Deputy Regional Director of Public Health).


Work undertaken has been highlighted in two Government National Tobacco Plans - the last plan "Healthy Lives, Healthy People" - and the National Tobacco Strategy: A Smokefree Future.


Between 2005 and 2012 the North East saw an:

• 8% fall in deaths from lung cancer
• 32% fall in deaths from coronary heart disease
• 38% fall in deaths from heart attack
• 14% fall in deaths from COPD (chronicle obstructive pulmonary disease)


Mortality rates from smoking

related diseases. Directly

Standardised Rate per

100,000 population

2005 2010 % Change
Lung Cancer 55.75 51.30 -8.0%
All Cancers 204.39 189.62 -9.3%
Coronary Heart Disease 118.82 80.61 -32.2%
Acute Myocardial Infarction 48.54 29.78 -38.6%

COPD (Chronic Bronchitis

and Emphysema and other)

38.66 33.26 -13.9%
Ciculatory Disease 246.74 177.43 -28.1%