Greater Manchester Leads The Way To Help People Kick The Habit This Stoptober

04/10/2017 11:56 BST | Updated 04/10/2017 11:56 BST
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As Stoptober enters its sixth year, the movement continues to transform lives and has inspired more than 1.5million smokers to attempt to quit.

But despite smoking rates being at their lowest ever, the sad fact is that it remains the country's biggest preventable killer, causing 79,000 deaths a year and costing the NHS £2.5billion.

There are excellent free resources available through Stoptober to help, so there's never been a better time to quit.

But Governments also need to play their part and create an environment that encourages quitting.

The UK has consistently taxed tobacco products heavily and introduced one of the most comprehensive sets of tobacco control laws in the world, including banning tobacco advertising, ending smoking in public places and most recently introducing standardised packaging.

The result is a real culture shift and a sharp drop in smoking rates to record lows.

However far too much variation still exists - including in Greater Manchester where 18.4% of adults smoke compared to 15.5% nationally.

This is why we need local approaches tailored to local areas - because the challenges you have in Greater Manchester are different to those faced in Blackpool or Bristol.

Our new Tobacco Control Plan recognises that the approach needs to shift from national, legislative action to targeted, local plans.

Local areas must play a huge role in understanding their communities and targeting services accordingly - and Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership is leading the way with their Tobacco Free Greater Manchester Strategy.

Their bold vision is to make smoking history, starting with reducing smoking rates by around a third over the next five years. They will also be implementing smoke-free pregnancy incentive schemes to support the most vulnerable pregnant women to quit smoking for good.

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the Partnership for its leadership, and encourage people in Greater Manchester to get behind these efforts to reduce the harms caused by smoking. I also want other areas across the country to follow their lead and implement their own local tobacco control plans.

I know the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham has given his full backing to these plans and he's extremely proud that his community is leading the way.

I've worked with him in the past in the fight against breast cancer, and he is acutely aware that smoking is one of the major causes of cancer. I am glad to say that the ambition to fight tobacco is one our parties share.

It's so important we work with young people, families and communities to help spread the message through initiatives like Stoptober and the Tobacco Free Greater Manchester Strategy.

Smoking can destroy families, which is why we're driving forward towards the first ever smoke-free generation - and I hope Greater Manchester continues to lead the way in making this vision a reality.