Tobacco and alcohol control agencies given a new lease of life

THE future of Fresh and Balance, the North-East's two public health campaign groups, has been secured for at least the next two years.

Until recently Fresh - which campaigns for a reduction in the use of tobacco products - and Balance - which campaigns for a reduction in the consumption of alcohol - had been funded by NHS primary care trusts in the region.

But when PCTs were abolished, both agencies had to appeal to local authorities to provide funding.

Colin Shevells, director of Balance, said: "The funding we have secured from the 12 North-East local authorities is the same as before but for the first time we have got a two year contract."

Mr Shevells said the switch of funding from the NHS to local authorities meant that it would be "business as usual" for the two campaigning organisations.

Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, said: "The unanimous view of the new directors of public health, together with the Health and Well-being Committees, was that funding for both agencies should continue."

The agreement means that Fresh has an annual budget of 713,000 and Balance has a budget of 680,000 per annum.

This will allow Fresh and Balance to continue to mount high-profile campaigns to raise awareness of the harm caused by smoking and excessive drinking in the North-East.

Fresh was the very first tobacco control office to be set up in the UK back in 2005.

When Balance was set up - in 2009 - it was also the first of its kind in the UK.

Fresh was set up to reverse the worst rates of smoking in the country (29 per cent). Since then, smoking has fallen in the North-East faster than the national average and the latest figures for April 2012 to March 2013 shows it has declined to 21 per cent.

It means the North-East is no longer the worst area in England for smoking prevalance.

The main priority for Fresh is to secure plain-packaging for tobacco products and Balance is pushing for a minimum price per unit of alcohol to be introduced in England.

Balance has helped build support for minimum pricing with 53 per cent in favour in the region.

Fresh and Balance now share an office in Durham City and both employ four full time staff.

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