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Over 75,000 people suffering from smoking-related COPD


Fresh and Public Health England (PHE) are highlighting the debilitating nature of serious lung diseases for which smoking is the biggest preventable risk factor in time for New Year quit attempts.


It comes as the latest GP figures reveal that the number of people diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in the North East reached 75,370 in 2014-151. Nationally over 1 million people are living with 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.


Smokers can often dismiss the early signs of COPD as a 'smoker's cough' or shortness of breath, but if they continue smoking and the condition worsens, it can greatly impact on their quality of life.


Large numbers of people with COPD are unable to participate in everyday activities such as climbing stairs, housework or gardening; with many even unable take a holiday because of their disease.


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.


To highlight the impact of this progressive and debilitating disease,PHE has released a new short film featuring Joanne Nevin, a 40-year-old long-term smoker from Newcastle and Olympian Iwan Thomas, whose mother has recently been diagnosed with COPD, illustrating the difficulties of living with advanced COPD and urging people to quit this New Year. Watch her film.


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."


Dr Neil Munro, Consultant Respiratory Physician with County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, based at the University Hospital of North Durham, said:


"COPD is a disease mainly caused by smoking. Unfortunately it's a disease many smokers don't know much about until they are diagnosed. It can be a cruel disease but its worst symptoms can be prevented by quitting smoking early enough.


"A person with COPD will experience a much more rapid and severe decline in the function of their lungs, potentially making tasks that they previously took for granted like walking upstairs, washing or shopping become tremendously hard work.


"For anyone who smokes, is in their 30s or older and is experiencing shortness of breath, it is important they quit sooner rather than later. This can be a warning sign of the disease, not a "normal" part of smoking.


"Many COPD patients do find stopping smoking and treatment can really help their quality of life, but unfortunately we do not have any treatments to reverse the damage already sustained. The only way to stop the rapid deterioration in lung function is to stop smoking."


Joyce Greg, a 73-year-old COPD sufferer from Newcastle, said: "Living with COPD has had such an impact on my life. When I think about the life I had compared to the life I've got, it has dramatically changed for the worse. Nowadays, I can't do the majority of things that I used to do and love, simple things like socialising with friends. I miss out on so much and need help with almost everything I do. I wish I had never smoked. If you are a smoker, I'd urge you to quit this January for good." Click to view an interview with Joyce.


Ex-Olympic athlete, Iwan Thomas whose mother has just been diagnosed with COPD, says: "I've never fully understood COPD or the everyday consequences but when the simple things like climbing the stairs, making a cup of tea or walking to the bus stop become impossible, it's serious. After years of smoking, it's great that my mum is making 2016 the year she quits and I'd urge anyone who smokes to do the same. Quitting smoking can add years to your life and life to your years."


Smokers looking to quit are being encouraged to search 'Smokefree' online or contact their local Stop Smoking Service.



0800 531 6317


South Tyneside

0191 424 7300



Freephone 0800 531 6317



01670 813 135


North Tyneside 

0345 2000 101



0191 269 1103


County Durham 

0800 011 3405


Tees (Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, Stockton and Hartlepool)

01642 383 819



0300 123 1044 (national quitline only)