SMOKERS in Sunderland are costing the council millions of pounds in home care, a new report claims.
More than £3.6million has been spent by the authority on helping people with smoking-related illnesses to live in their homes according to the figures released by Action on Smoking and Health (Ash).
The anti-smoking group which estimates that every year 2,200 more people in the North East need local authority social care as a result of smoking and about 51,000 are receiving unpaid care from friends or family.
The report says that Sunderland City Council spent £3,671,925 in 2012-13 on helping more than 5,000 smokers aged over-50 live in their own homes.
That is on top of more than £2.7million that people themselves spent during the year, making a total of £6.3m spent on social care for over-50s as a result of smoking.
Ash say that smokers aged 50 and above are costing councils in the North East more than £36 million a year in home care costs.
The true cost of the addiction could be much higher, as there are no records of what councils spend on under 50s.
Smokers in this age group are twice as likely to need help with everyday living and on average need care nine years earlier than non-smokers, researchers claim.
Ailsa Rutter, Director of North East anti-smoking group 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 COPD as one disease affects families and 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, and yet there is not the same level of awareness as diseases such as lung cancer. 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.”
Councillor Graeme Miller, the city council’s portfolio holder for Health, Housing and Adult Services, said: “These figures demonstrate the financial, the social, and personal costs of the ill-health and diseases that are caused by smoking. We’re approaching our third Stoptober campaign over the coming weeks and these figures are a timely reminder that it is never too late to stop smoking.”
“By quitting, or not smoking in the first place, there are health benefits for the individual, for family and friends, and for everyone in our communities.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, added: “From next April, when the Care Act 2014 becomes law, councils will also have to fund the extra social care costs of preventative measures in order to reduce the need for care in people’s homes – this at a time when they face further cuts to their budgets.”