Report raises health fears

ONE in four people in Wigan borough drink too much and the region also saw more people smoking than anywhere else in the country according to a new report.

The ‘Smoking and Drinking among adults 2009’ report, published by the Office For National Statistics revealed that the North West is the worst area in the UK for smoking amongst adults and the third worst for average weekly alcohol consumption.

Smoking figures were higher than anywhere else in the country, where 23 per cent of adults are smokers as supposed to only 18 per cent in the South East. The report also found that manual workers smoke more, but drink less than professionals.

In Wigan, the problems associated with alcohol and smoking are evident with the area highly ranked in the North West statistics for both smoking and alcohol problems.

However, health bosses at Ashton Leigh and Wigan NHS Trust say that while the figures are high, they are decreasing and all possible efforts are being made to continue to improve the situation, which has dropped from five per cent from 29.

Dr Kate Ardern, Executive Director of Public Health, said: “Wigan Council, NHS ALW and other key partners have joined forces to form the Wigan and Leigh Tobacco Alliance. The strategy is to fight the problem on two fronts – make stopping smoking as easy as possible and making smoking history for our children.

“We have a successful stop smoking service. Smokers who quit with the help of Stop Smoking Services are four times more likely to succeed. In the borough there are now more ex-smokers than smokers, living proof that it can be done.

“It is estimated that one smoker in every two will die prematurely of a smoking-related illness. This is a considerable challenge and great strides have been taken both regionally and here in Wigan where last year alone we helped 3,530 smokers to become smoke free.”

Alcohol consumption is also putting strains on the health service, with Wigan being the fourth worst in the North West for hospital admissions due to alcohol.

Glen Berry, Assistant Director for Health Development at NHS ALW, says that more money than ever is being invested into combating alcohol problems.

He said: “Wigan is the fourth worst area of the North West for hospital admissions due to alcohol and this is really bad, as the North West is the worst area of the country. However, we are doing everything we can in a multi-agency approach with the council, Police and youth services to try and affect every level of the community.

“The problem with alcohol is that it is everywhere. You cannot escape it, be it in the street or on TV. One of the things we have seen that is successful is using intervention workers in Wigan Infirmary. We have two members of staff in Accident and Emergency who work with those who regularly attend due to alcohol related problems and we have seen superb results.”

For more information on how you can get help to stop smoking email or call 0800 032 7252.

For help with alcohol call 0800 389 4463.