Smoking costs Councils in North East more than £36m a year in social care costs.
New figures from Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) show that councils in the region are paying millions a year to help people with smoking-related illness to live in their own homes. It is claimed the true figure could be much higher because of lack of information on some costs.
Individuals across the North East also face a bill of more than £27m to cover the cost of their own care. This means that more than £63m is spent unnecessarily on social care every year in the region as a result of smoking.
Ailsa Rutter, director of of North East anti-tobacco office Fresh, said: “Smoking kills one in two long-term smokers early, but smoking related disease can result in years of life-limiting disability before it results in death.
“I have seen first-hand in my own family how Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is one disease that affects families and I would not wish it on anyone. It is a disease that is mainly caused by smoking and can leave those with advanced COPD housebound struggling for air and dependant on oxygen.
“Councils now lead on both public health and social care. Smoking brings both together. By helping people to quit smoking not only will it improve their health but it will mean they require less paid-for care in the future.”
For the first time the new research has estimated the cost of smoking to the social care system. It reveals that current smokers over 50 are twice as likely to need help with day-to-day living and on average need care nine years earlier than non-smokers.
The study estimates that every year 2,200 more people in the North East need local authority social care as a result of smoking. However, smoking also means that in the region of 51,000 people are receiving unpaid care from friends or family.
Newcastle City Council leader, Coun Nick Forbes said: “These figures reinforce what we already know about smoking – that it is a huge cause of unnecessary suffering to the people of Newcastle and the North East.
“Not only does it cause untold suffering by shortening lives and damaging health, it also imposes huge costs on family and friends and on cash-strapped services. We are committed to helping people to quit and to avoid smoking in the first place.
“But we also recognise that smoking is often a consequence of social conditions and manipulation by the tobacco industry. Our strategy for improving health aims to address those fundamental issues as well as providing help to people as and when they need it.
“It’s vital that we step up our efforts to stop children starting to smoke as well as encourage anyone who does smoke to consider quitting. It’s never too late to stop”.