Over 2,000 people in Merton living a life blighted by chronic smoking-related lung diseases
Residents who smoke are being warned about the risks of developing debilitating lung diseases if they do not kick the habit.
Smoking is the biggest preventable risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the umbrella term for serious lung conditions including chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
COPD can be seriously debilitating, causing breathing difficulties, which in many cases are caused by the narrowing of airways and destruction of lung tissue.
NHS Merton Clinical Commissioning Group is highlighting the latest GP figures that reveal the number of people diagnosed with COPD in Merton reached 2,325 in 2014-15. Nationally, over one million people are living with the disease, which can be fatal.
Sadly, 184 COPD deaths were recorded in the borough between 2012 and 2014. The capital's hospitals logged 13,620 routine and emergency admissions in 2013-14.
Dr Simon Gilbert, Merton CCG Clinical Director and local GP, said: "'COPD is a condition that mainly affects long-term smokers. It is caused by lung damage due to smoking and can lead to a persistent cough, recurrent chest infections and worsening shortness of breath. If you suffer from these symptoms it is important to contact your GP practice for further assessment.
"Diagnosing COPD early can be the incentive to stop smoking and get further treatment which can dramatically slow down the progression of this common disease."
Dr Dagmar Zeuner, Director of Public Health, Merton said " COPD kills over 30,000 people a year in the UK, only five per cent less than lung cancer, the UK's largest cancer killer.
"Around three million people in the UK have COPD, but an estimated two million people are undiagnosed. This is why we've developed a local Proactive GP programme in partnership with Merton CCG, improving early detection by working with community Health Champions and local GP practices in the east of the borough to identify and screen those at risk of COPD and refer those with high scores to their GP for further investigations.'
"Up to 25 per cent of long-term smokers will go on to develop CPD. Therefore the single best thing a smoker can do is to reduce their chances of developing this devastating disease is to stop smoking, and there are many services available to support those who want to quit."
To highlight the impact of COPD, Public Health England has released a new short film featuring Olympian Iwan Thomas, whose mother has recently been diagnosed with COPD. Together with four smokers, Iwan takes part in an experiment to illustrate the difficulties of living with advanced COPD and urges people to quit this New Year.
The film can be found here<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQuARMhr9lo>
For help to stop smoking call Merton Stop smoking service<https://www.live-well.org.uk/merton/health/i-want-to-stop-smoking.aspx> on 020 8251 0606<tel:020%208251%200606>, text HELP2QUIT to 80800 or visit nhs.uk/smokefree<http://nhs.uk/smokefree> for a full range of free tools and support.