SMOKING on Wearside costs the NHS more than £13million every year, according to new figures.
A study by health campaign group Fresh claims to show the “true cost” of the habit in lost lives and illness, with much of the resulting expenditure falling on the NHS, local authorities and private business.
The statistics, from Brunel University and combined with figures from the North East Public Health Observatory, reveal the full scale of the problem facing the region.
Despite the North East recording some of the highest quitting figures in recent years, smoking-related diseases still cost the NHS in Sunderland about £13.6million per year, including £6.4million on hospital admissions and £2.7million per year on GP consultations.
About 27 per cent of adults in the city are estimated to smoke regularly, which is 62,600 people, rising to 33.8 per cent among people employed in routine and manual occupations.
It is estimated there will be about 495 deaths directly attributable to smoking in Sunderland each year in the over 35s, equating to 308.1 deaths per 100,000 people.
Pregnant women are also failing to heed the warnings, with 646 Wearsiders recorded as smokers when they gave birth.
Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, Smoke Free North East, said: “We still need to do more when smoking causes such incredible damage to families and communities and costs every individual, every family, every GP surgery, every council, business and hospital.”
Across the North East, it costs the NHS £105million every year, with more than £53million spent on 27,000 hospital admissions and £17.9million on outpatient appointments.
More than £19.5million is spent on GP consultations, £12.6million on prescriptions and nearly £1.9million on nurse consultations.
Smoking is estimated to cost employers in the North East about £70million a year, with 335,000 days lost each year to absenteeism.
In addition, the effects of passive smoking cost the North East about £35.9million each year, with the biggest burden falling on children exposed to second-hand smoke.
Nearly one in five of all deaths among adults over 35 is as a result of smoking, causing about 4,211 deaths in the North East each year according to latest NHS estimates.
Smoking causes nearly 90 per cent of deaths from lung cancer, about 80 per cent of deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and about 17 per cent of deaths from heart disease.
Ms Rutter said: “For every penny spent, there is a human being who has lost a loved one, watched a loved one suffer from a smoking-related illness or wished their mum, dad, son or daughter would quit before it is too late.
“The tragedy is that most smokers start as children and most go on to regret every having started.”
Ross Smith, head of policy at the North East Chamber of Commerce, said: “For years we have been aware of the personal cost of smoking, with the detrimental effect it has on the health of many people in the North East. This report demonstrates the economic cost and the staggering impact smoking has on regional businesses.”
l If you want to quit smoking, call the National Smokefree helpline on 0800 169 0169.