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160,000 could have COPD in NE as Every Breath is relaunched



Smokers are being urged to quit and reduce their risk of developing a lung disease which can leave people fighting for breath. It comes as the latest estimates show around 160,000 people in the region could have COPD.


With a week to go until No Smoking Day, the "Every Breath" campaign from Fresh is raising awareness that smoking causes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).


One major study suggests at least 1 in 4 smokers will develop clinically significant COPD. Latest figures show over 80,000 people in the North East have diagnosed COPD [1] - but it is estimated that just as many people may be living with the disease but are as yet undiagnosed.


COPD is the UK's fifth biggest killer and is mainly caused by smoking. Feeling short of breath, a chronic cough and wheezing are early warning signs that can present themselves from middle age onwards


The likelihood of developing COPD increases the more you smoke and the longer you've smoked for. But even if you have COPD, quitting smoking can bring major improvements to the way you feel and to your health. You'll feel better too – you'll feel less short of breath and cough less.


Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh, said: "COPD is a disease too many smokers are not aware of until they are diagnosed, and yet more than a quarter of smokers will develop it to a level where it affects their mobility and their quality of life. I lost my own Dad prematurely to smoking related COPD and every day I think about all we have lost out on as a family. We want to ensure thousands more North East families get the chance to prevent COPD impacting on their lives in such a terrible way.


"Many smokers suffer from early warning signs of COPD like feeling short of breath or a cough but dismiss these as a normal part of smoking – when in fact it could be an early warning sign.


"Quitting smoking is the most important thing you can do to look after your health and avoid COPD. But if you have a lung condition, quitting is an effective way to treat it and slow its progress." 


Alyson- my mum




Alyson Jordan, 50, from Birtley, knows only too well the heartbreaking consequences smoking can bring about. Alyson, who works for as a Physical Activity Specialist at Go Gateshead, lost her dear mum, Heather, in 2016 aged just 67, after an eight-year battle with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).


She said: "Mum was coming up to her 60th birthday and should have been enjoying her retirement. After her diagnosis, it was awful. Anxiety and depression set in and she became housebound. She stopped doing everything, even down to making a cup of coffee. She ended up on oxygen 24 hours a day. 67 is no age to die. It's still young. She should have been watching her grandchildren grow up – I have a son in his 20s and my sister Jessie has three children.


"Mum used to say 'you don't want to end up like me.' If she'd known 20 or 30 years earlier what would have happened, she would have stopped smoking. Even as a little girl, I remember worrying about her and writing on her cigarette boxes 'smoking is bad for you' and 'please stop mam, I don't want you to die'. I must have only been about six or seven.


"Mum only stopped smoking when she was diagnosed with COPD. The shock of the diagnosis was the wake-up call she finally needed, but sadly it came too late for her."


Dr Robin Mitchell, Clinical Director for Northern Clinical Networks, said: "We are supporting the Every Breath campaign as we are all too aware of the impact that smoking has on lung health. Sadly too many people in our region are still ending up in hospital wards or on oxygen at home as a result of smoking - and we also know most smokers get addicted during childhood.


"Tobacco addiction is still the most common cause of the two biggest lung disease killers - COPD and lung cancer - in the UK and it is a major factor in causing and worsening many other conditions. Reducing smoking uptake and supporting people to stop smoking should form an essential part of reducing the burden of lung disease."


Rachael Hodges, senior policy officer at the British Lung Foundation said: "An estimated 1.2m in the UK have diagnosed COPD and current estimates are that as many people could be living with the condition but not diagnosed.


"Smoking is the biggest cause of COPD and quitting is by far the best way to reduce your chances of getting COPD or to slow down its progress. For people worried about symptoms, the best advice is to consult with their GP. For those with COPD, the BLF offers support and advice on our website and you can also call our helpline. We also have BLF support groups across the UK which offer people with lung conditions the chance to make new friends and learn more about their condition."


There are more ways to quit than ever before and smokers are being encouraged to visit

  • Get support from your local stop smoking service where you can see a friendly, trained adviser
  • Nicotine replacement products and stop smoking medicines are available from shops, pharmacies and on prescription to help you reduce withdrawal symptoms and quit for good. Get some advice to help use it.
  • Switching to an e-cigarette has helped many smokers stop. In the UK, e-cigarettes are tightly regulated for safety and quality and while not completely risk free, they carry a small fraction of the risk of cigarettes