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  • Durham OnAir

Smoking related illnesses cost the North East £67 million in social care costs

The shocking new breakdown from Action on Smoking and Health estimates that local authorities are spending nearly £35.2m on home based social care and £31.8m on residential social care to a total of around 5769 people.

In addition, there are another 61,635 people in the North East receiving unpaid social care from friends or family as a result of smoking which if were purchased from official sources would cost a staggering £459 million.

See local breakdowns in the PDF provided and the ASH social care cost calculator.

Smoking is the leading cause of premature death in England, killing 74,600 people in 2019 alone. However, smoking is also a leading cause of preventable illness – for every person killed by smoking, at least another 30 are estimated to be living with serious smoking-related disease and disability.

ASH analysis found that, on average, smokers in England need care when they are 63 years old, ten years earlier than never-smokers, and still of working age. Around 1.5 million people in England are estimated to need help with everyday tasks such as dressing, walking across a room and using the toilet due to smoking.

Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh and Balance, said: “Smoking kills, but the diseases that it causes such as COPD also rob people of years of active life, costing them mobility, independence and the ability to care for themselves. I know this personally as my own Dad sadly died 20 years ago from COPD and watching him suffer was heart-breaking.

“For thousands of people living with these diseases in their 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s, even the activities we take for granted like having a shower or cooking a meal can be a struggle…and a reason to regret not quitting smoking.

“The tobacco companies continue to make a significant profit each year through getting children and young people hooked on their lethal products, whilst killing prematurely at least half of their long term customers. It’s important we do all we can to prevent this and these figures demonstrate how vital continued action to reduce smoking rates is”.

Alyson Jordan, 51, from Birtley, lost her mum, Heather, in 2016 aged just 67, after an eight-year battle with severe COPD which was diagnosed at just 59.

Alyson said: “Mum was always so full of life. She always had her hair done and loved music – she was the life and soul of the party. She smoked for over 40 years and regularly had chest problems and asthma. We noticed that she was getting really breathless and we were worried about her. One day she went to sleep and was found unconscious in bed the next morning. She was rushed to hospital and was diagnosed at just 59 with severe emphysema – a type of COPD.

“I remember seeing her leaning over the kitchen bench struggling to get her breath and I noticed changes in her – she wasn’t socialising or going out with her friends as much – which she used to love doing.

“She was coming up to her 60th birthday and should have been enjoying her retirement. After her diagnosis, it was awful. Anxiety and depression set in and she became housebound. She stopped doing everything, even down to making a cup of coffee.

“She was able to manage a body wash herself but never got in a bath again, but sadly she had to rely on the one thing she never wanted, and that was someone else helping her with personal hygiene including brushing her teeth.”

She said: “When I think about that time, I just can’t believe that she went from the woman she was to the woman she became. She wasn’t like my mum. She went from a healthy weight to around seven stone and she was skin and bones. It was heart-breaking to see.

“She ended up on oxygen 24 hours a day. She was such a proud woman, she didn’t want to use it. 67 is no age to die. It’s still young. She should have been watching her grandchildren grow up.”

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said: “Smoking has a devastating impact on our communities far beyond the tens of thousands of lives it takes every year. It profoundly undermines the quality of many people’s lives, often placing heavy demands on family and friends.

“Securing the Government’s vision of a smokefree country by 2030 will make all the difference. It will ease pressure on the social care system and build resilience in our communities, enabling people to live longer, healthier lives.

“Local authorities have a key role to play in ending smoking, but they cannot do it without additional funding. ASH backs calls on the government to introduce a ‘polluter pays’ levy on tobacco manufacturers to pay for the support needed to end smoking in this country.”

About the Smoking and Social Care Calculator

The ASH Smoking and Social Care calculator provides a breakdown of the costs of smoking to the social care system in England.

This calculator allows you to see how much each local authority in England is estimated to spend annually on home based and residential social care caused by smoking. It also sets out how many people locally are receiving unpaid care from friends and family to meet needs caused by smoking and how many people in your area are estimated to have smoking-caused social care needs which are unmet, in addition to showing how much it would cost the council. This calculator is based on the findings of ASH’s recent report, The cost of smoking to the social care system published in March 2021. This report found that:

  • Over one and a half million people in England (1,647,500) require social care support as a result of smoking

  • On average, smokers report difficulty completing tasks 7 years earlier than never smokers and receive care support 10 years earlier than never smokers

  • Current smokers and ex-smokers who quit less than 10 years ago are twice as likely to receive local authority funded social care than never smokers

  • Every year, local authorities in England spend £1.2 billion on home and residential social care support caused by smoking, equivalent to 8% of all local authority spending on home and residential social care support for adults in England


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