ALMOST 3,000 hospital admissions in Gwent are attributed to smoking every year, new figures show.

Information published by the Public health Wales Observatory and the Welsh Government estimate 2,900 admissions a year are due to smoking – with a total Wales estimate of 27,700.

The report shows 24 per cent of people living in the area covered by the Aneurin Bevan Health Board (ABHB) smoke – with nine per cent of girls and five per cent of boys aged 11 to 16-years-old living in the area smoking at least once a week.

Twenty per cent of children in the area are regularly exposed to smoke while travelling in cars.

Around one in six women in Wales smoke throughout their pregnancy, the highest rate in the UK. This figure is highest among women under 20 with nearly one in three women in this age range smoking during pregnancy.

Dr Gill Richardson, executive director of public health for ABHB said the figures show smoking continues to be the single greatest avoidable cause of death in Wales and a considerable cost to the NHS in Wales.

She said if more women quit smoking while pregnant they would see immediate health benefits for both mother and child and the NHS in Wales would save up to £2.8 million per year.

EDITORIAL COMMENT: Smoking costs us all

ITWOULD appear some people simply refuse to get the message about smoking.

Despite the health problems the addiction causes, despite the ban on smoking in public places, despite the increasing price of a packet of cigarettes, it seems a hard core do not want to give up.

And as the figures we publish today reveal, smokers continue to place a substantial burden on the National Health Service.

Almost 3,000 hospital admissions in Gwent every year are attributable to smoking, with smokers accounting for almost a quarter of the population.

The most worrying smoking statistics remain those that relate to children.

Nine per cent of girls and five per cent of boys aged 11- 16 in Gwent smoke at least once a week, and 20 per cent of children are regularly exposed to smoke in cars.

As with most matters, the earlier health messages can be successfully transmitted the better.

If the anti-smoking message doesn’t get across to young people then it will never get across to adults.

Not all smokers die of smoking-related diseases, of courses, just as not all obese people die of heart attacks or all heavy drinkers die from liver failure.

But the health problems stored up during a lifetime of smoking are serious and have a direct impact on nonsmokers via the cost of the health service.