Cancers caused by smoking hit record highs with 2,700 affected each year in North East says Cancer Research UK

A college featuring Ailsa Rutter in a floral dress and a person smoking
-Credit: (Image: Fresh and Balance / handout)

Cases of cancer caused by smoking have hit record highs, and the habit is responsible for 2,700 people in the North East a year falling ill.

That's according to analysis from Cancer Research UK (CRUK) - and comes as the charity and more than 1,000 other leading health figures have written to the new Government urging it to ensure the Tobacco and Vapes Bill which was shelved when the General Election was called is revived. That is the piece of legislation which would see the legal age to buy cigarettes raise each year.

Under the proposed law, those born after January 1 2009 would never legally be able to buy cigarettes The Bill also featured a range of measures to make vaping less attractive, especially to youngsters but it had not been passed into law by politicians when the last parliament was dissolved.

Now campaigners including from CRUK and regional stop smoking group Fresh have urged the new Labour government to pick up the proposed changes. CRUK has also highlighted new figures showing how smoking-related cancers are hitting more people than ever before, even though smoking rates are falling.

In the North East, CRUK has attributed 2,700 cancer cases to smoking - including lung, liver, throat and kidney cancer. Smoking contributes to 16 kinds of cancer, though lung cancer remains the type with the strongest link to smoking.

It's thought that smoking causes 30,000 lung cancer cases across the country each year.

And although smoking rates have fallen, it's estimated that up to 264,000 people in the wider North East may still smoke. Across the country, the new figures suggest 160 cancer cases every day are caused by smoking - up 17% on what was seen two decades ago.

CRUK says the numbers underline the urgent need to tackle smoking by bringing back the Tobacco and Vapes Bill in the first King’s Speech following the General Election. This is set to take place on July 17.

CRUK spokesperson for the North East, Lisa Millett, said: “Right now, thousands of people in the region are diagnosed every year with cancer that was caused by smoking. That’s thousands of families’ lives changed forever by an illness that could have been prevented.

"Smoking has no place in our future. Raising the age of sale of tobacco products will be one of the biggest public health interventions in living memory, establishing the UK as a world-leader. It’s vital that this Bill is re-introduced at the King’s Speech, passed and implemented in full so the impact of smoking is consigned to the history books."

On Monday, campaign group Action on Smoking and Health sent an open letter signed by more than 1,000 doctors and health professionals calling for the previous bill to be "front and centre" of efforts to tackle smoking harms. Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh was among the signatories.

The letter said: "Britain was the birthplace of the tobacco industry, an industry which killed over 100 million people in the twentieth century and is on track to kill 1 billion in the twenty-first, mainly in low and middle-income countries. The UK now has the chance to lead the world in phasing out smoking. The new government must seize it with both hands."

New Health Secretary, Wes Streeting, said: “As a cancer survivor, it is a personal priority that we reduce the numbers of people falling ill with the disease. Prevention is better than cure. This Government will shift the focus of healthcare from simply treating sickness to preventing it in the first place. We are committed to creating a smoke-free country, so the next generation can never legally be sold cigarettes.

“Protecting future generations from the harms of smoking will save thousands of lives and ease pressures on the NHS. By building a healthier society, we will help to build a healthy economy."

It comes as nine cancer cancer specialists writing in the Lancet Oncology said the NHS is at a tipping point in cancer care. They argued there is a long way to go before the NHS has enough staff and that “novel solutions”, such as new diagnostic tests, have been wrongly hyped as fixes for the cancer crisis but “none address the fundamental issues of cancer as a systems problem”.

The experts said there are “shortages in every aspect of the UK cancer workforce” and call for system-wide reform to cut cancer care inequality and drive up earlier diagnosis and timely treatment.

Find out more about Cancer Research UK's Turning Point for Cancer campaign at