Nearly a billion a year up in smoke – cost of smoking in the North East revealed
The staggering £992.5 million cost of smoking to the North East is exposed today [Tuesday 16th May], amid growing calls for a levy on tobacco companies to fund prevention.
The analysis of national data for charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)  takes a close look at the impact of smoking on the economy, healthcare, and social care.
The overall cost of smoking to society in the North East includes a significant cost to the NHS and local authority social care. Smoking-related hospital admissions and primary care treatments cost £102.6m yearly, while it costs local authorities in the North East £64.3m each year on care for smoking-related illnesses in later life.
But the new data also shows a staggering impact to the North East economy as it highlights that the region is losing £811.6m in productivity due to smoking. The figure includes:
- £469.1m lost to smoking-related unemployment.
- £273.1m lost to smoking-related lost earnings.
- £69.3m in smoking-related early deaths.
Smoking related ill-health is the main reason for this impact with smokers reduced mobility and health, job losses, reduction in wages, and being more likely to die prematurely – all of which is taking a huge toll on individuals, families and the economy.
Although not included in the latest figure, the new analysis also shows that smokers lose a large part of their income to tobacco – an estimated £767.6million in the North East each year, or on average £2,451 per smoker which could be spent on other things.
Meanwhile the tobacco industry makes billions of pounds in profit each year, as smokers and their families pay the price for addictions established in childhood.
Fresh and ASH are urging the government to bring in a ‘polluter pays’ levy on tobacco companies to pay towards prevention and treatment.
Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh and Balance, said: “Smoking is the leading cause of preventable illness and death, taking 10 years off the average life of someone who smokes. It has killed over 117,000 people in the North East since the year 2000 and despite seeing some of the biggest falls in smoking, around 313,000 adults still smoke in our region.
“These figures are a stark reminder that tobacco is a significant drain on the North East – on our local businesses, our economy, our NHS and our local authorities. Tobacco companies are some of the most profitable multinationals and are making enormous profits from peddling this killer addiction while the NHS and local authorities are expected to pay for their damage. It is time that the tobacco industry is made to pay for prevention.
“We are urging the government to come up with a fully funded national tobacco control plan which includes making tobacco companies accountable to pay a levy for prevention and support for smokers to quit.”
John McCabe, North East England Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive, said: “Given the workforce challenges already faced by organisations across our region, the impact of poor health on the economy from smoking will be a cause for concern for many businesses.
“As a Chamber we consistently hear from our members how much they rely on a healthy and productive workforce, but after the successive pressures of the pandemic and cost of living crisis we can no longer take this for granted. As a business community, we are committed to our role in ensuring our colleagues are happy, safe, and healthy at work.”
Hazel Cheeseman, Deputy Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health, said: “Smoking is a massive burden on society. It costs individuals in terms of their health and wealth and it costs us all when smokers are too ill to work.
“Smoking is still the leading cause of preventable ill-health and death in the country but resources to tackle it have been reduced. Recent announcements by Public Health Minister will not be enough to meet the Government’s ambition for England to be smokefree by 2030. We urgently need a levy on tobacco companies to pay for services which support people to quit smoking and to prevent uptake among young people.”
Reducing smoking would help ease pressures on family budgets and enable people to spend their disposable income on non-tobacco products in their communities, which would help boost the local economy.
Bob Blackman MP, Chairman of the APPG on Smoking and Health, said: “As a former council leader, I know a key priority for all local authorities is to deliver economic growth, increase employment opportunities and protect their communities from the cost of living crisis. The ASH Ready Reckoner is a valuable tool enabling every local authority to analyse the damage smoking is doing to their community and demonstrate how tackling smoking can boost the local economy as well as protecting families from the pain of losing loved ones too early.”