A RECORD number of people in Herefordshire went to hospital as a result of smoking last year, according to new figures.

Charity Action on Smoking and Health says the increase in smoking-related hospital admissions places a “real burden” on the NHS, and calls on the Government to do more to help smokers.

Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty, has previously warned that smokers are also at greater risk from coronavirus.

Data from Public Health England shows there were 2,082 admissions to hospital attributable to smoking in Herefordshire in 2018-19 – a 4% rise on the year before.

This was the highest number since records began in 2009-10, and over the 11-year period, 19,000 people were hospitalised.

The figures only include admissions for diseases that are wholly or partially attributed to smoking for people over 35. They suggest that 1.5% of over-35s in Herefordshire were admitted to hospital because of smoking last year.

Almost a quarter of English local authorities also set a record for smoking-related hospital admissions last year, with around half a million admissions nationally.

It was a rise of 7% on the year before, and the first increase since 2015-16.

Hazel Cheeseman, director of policy at Action on Smoking and Health said: “Most smokers start smoking as children and try many times to quit.

“Smokers are more likely to get sick, develop complications and take longer to recover than non-smokers.

“This places a real burden on the NHS. Government has pledged to do more to help smokers in the NHS which is welcome. But more action is needed to achieve their vision of smoking rates of 5% or less by 2030.”

“We are calling for a Smokefree 2030 Fund to make the high-profit tobacco industry pay for the damage it does.”

Advice from Public Health England says that high rates of smoking attributable admissions are indicative of poor population health and high smoking prevalence.

Speaking to MPs at a Commons Health and Social Care Committee earlier this month, Professor Whitty said smokers shouldn’t behave any differently to others in terms of self-isolation for coronavirus, but this was a very good moment to quit.

He added: “For most respiratory infections, you worry about people who smoke a bit more. They’re more likely to get it and their immune system is less good.”

The Department of Health and Social Care said plain packaging helped to bring smoking rates down.