Under a thick fug of smoke lies Gamesley, the cigarette capital

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There were only a dozen or so regulars at the Centurion pub on the outskirts of Glossop yesterday lunchtime but the smoky fug they were generating said everything about the local propensity to smoke.

There were only a dozen or so regulars at the Centurion pub on the outskirts of Glossop yesterday lunchtime but the smoky fug they were generating said everything about the local propensity to smoke.

All but one of the drinkers was drawing on a cigarette and landlord Eric Crompton would have joined them (he's a 40-a- day Silk Cut man) had he not been working. Welcome to the Gamesley ward of Glossop, otherwise known as the smoking capital of England and Wales.

People in the Gamesley area spend an average of £552 per person per year on tobacco, according to the research by Caci, a market analysis company, while further south, residents of the Great Hollands North ward of Bracknell, Berkshire, spend the least, at just £68 per head a year.

Nestling in one of the most beautiful areas of the Peak District, Gamesley was built as an overspill estate from Manchester in 1969. But the breathtaking views that attract so many visitors mask the reality of a community plagued by serious public health problems.

Gamesley is one of the most deprived council wards in the country, with high rates of unemployment, low levels of car ownership and a life expectancy for men which is two years below the national average. One in three 16- to 24-year-olds is unemployed in Gamesley, compared with one in four in the rest of England. Deaths from smoking-related conditions such as lung cancer and respiratory diseases are also higher than the national average.

Dr Alan Dow, the sole GP in Gamesley, said: "Unfortunately, it is a socio-economically deprived community and I do have a lot of patients who smoke. When I first came to Gamesley, I conducted a consultation with the local residents to ask what their health priorities were.

"Interestingly, one of the top priorities that came out were health problems linked to the effects of smoking, such as chest disease and heart problems, but actual smoking was lower down. People were aware that they were suffering as a result of smoking, but it can be very difficult to give up when there are so many people around you who are carrying on with their habit,"

Local health chiefs have recognised that Gamesley has high rates of smoking and it has been targeted with a range of initiatives in recent years. The area was one of the first to introduce smoking cessation services, in 1997, and treatments such as nicotine patches and the drug Zyban are available on prescription.

Gamesley's naming and shaming has come in the week that the Secretary of State for Health, John Reid, published a White Paper on public health that included new measures to reduce smoking rates. Under the proposals, by 2008 smoking will be outlawed in all workplaces and pubs and restaurants that serve food.

For the regulars of the Centurion, the ban will make little difference to their desire for a cigarette, and the landlord says the law could mean the end of his business. He adds: "I might try to run it as a private smoking house because 90 per cent of my customers smoke and it will be a problem."

Lee Scaif, a painter and decorator - drawing on one of his 20 cigarettes a day after winding up work for another week - was inclined to agree with him. "It might be that we need to go back to the traditions of a smoking room, but there won't be many through the door if they can't have a smoke," he said.

His boss, Peter Gibbons, said: "They're taking liberties away. I suppose you can go outside for a smoke but on a day like today that would be crazy."

Almost 12 million people in Britain smoke, and despite the best efforts of decades of hard- hitting health campaigns, rates are still rising among key groups such as young women. The Government has pledged to reduce the number of smokers by two million within the next five years. The Health Secretary is hoping that the proposed ban will help to achieve that target.

In Gamesley, Dr Dow agreed: "It can be hard to give up smoking if you then go into an environment such as a pub or a restaurant where other people haven't taken the same action. That's why a ban will help - it will get us away from the current climate where we have got immersed in a culture of smoking."

But the culture may be so ingrained in Glossop that a ban may be hard to even enforce, local businesses say. Juliette Palmer, who runs the George bar and hotel in the town, said: "A lot of people smoke here; we have guests who even try to light up in the no smoking bit at the far end of the restaurant. We also have our regulars who day in, day out, sit and chain smoke. A ban won't stop them smoking."

HIGHEST AND LOWEST SPENDERS

Gamesley, Glossop £552 per person per year

Arundel, Liverpool £534

Nechells, Birmingham £515

Castle, Northampton £515

North-west city, Newcastle £510

Sparkbrook, Birmingham £510

Spinney Hills, Leicester £507

Arborestum, Derby £506

Byker, Newcastle £497

City and Holbeck, Leeds £497

Great Hollands, Berks £68

Westbrook, Warrington £120

Molesey Sth, W. Mdlnds £121

The Astons and Heyford, Bicester, Oxfordshire £124

Braintree West, Essex £133

South Woodham Chetwood, Chelmsford,Essex £136

Georgeham and Mortehoe, Woolacombe, Devon £137

Haydon Wick, Swindon £138

Hawks Green, Cannock, West Midlands £140

Cheam, Sutton, Surrey £140

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