Smoking figures continue to tumble in Barnsley as drive to improve health takes effect
Numbers of smokers in Barnsley fell more sharply in the last 12 months than in the region or nationally, new statistics show, following intensive work by the council and other public bodies to help improve health.
Traditionally, Barnsley’s record on smoking has been worse than average but a range of initiatives has started to close the gap and has seen the situation improving more quickly than the averages for either Yorkshire and Humberside or England as a whole.
There are now 17.4 people classed as smokers and the increasingly low numbers mean the council is promoting a new message – that more than 82 per cent of people in the borough do not smoke.
Numbers were down 0.8 per cent last year, on top of a fall of around two per cent in the preceding 12 months, which is a strong performance compared to the 0.3 per cent drop across Yorkshire and Humberside or 0.5 per cent for the country as a whole.
The result is a sharp contrast to Rotherham, where the number went up by 2.7 per cent.
Those areas still have fewer smokers than Barnsley, with an England average of 14.4 per cent of people and 16.7 per cent in the Yorkshire region, but public health practitioner Kaye Mann said the gap was narrowing: “We want to see bigger declines.
“The work we are doing will continue and the priority for the council, hospital and health and wellbeing board is to keep smoking really high on the agenda.
“Half of smokers will die as a result of smoking, it is really massive,” she said.
It is hoped that as increasingly few people smoke, the habit will not been seen as a social norm by the next generation, who will feel less inclined to take up the habit.
That fits into the council’s ‘make smoking invisible’ initiative, which has already seen a voluntary ban on smoking introduced in park playgrounds, outside the town hall and around many schools.
Work has been going on with Barnsley Hospital, which has become a no smoking area, to help both patients and staff who want to quit.
“Smoking is an addiction. We are classing it as a disease. It is our duty to treat people and help them quit smoking. We know it isn’t easy. The stop smoking service is completely free, we want to do as much as we can to support people,” she said.