Sunderland is counting the cost of smoking as new figures reveal smokers over 50 put an almost £10million strain on social care.
The total bill as a result of smoking from this age group upwards during 2015/16 came to a massive £9,863,483, according to Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).
This figure include £5,384,198 spent by Sunderland City Council, for a total of 246 state-dependent smokers, and £4,479.285 spent privately by 122 smokers.
In a addition, a further 1,665 individuals received informal care from friends and family, the financial impact of which is difficult to quantify.
According to ASH, the problem is set to get worse, because the local authority public health grant which pays for stop smoking services is being cut by central government, and a growing number of NHS commissioners are now refusing to pay for GP prescriptions for stop smoking medicines.
In the North East the figures for 2015/16 show:
· The total additional spending by local authorities on social care as a result of smoking for adults aged 50 and over was approximately £44 million.
· Individuals across the region aged 50 and over also faced a bill of over £36.6 million to cover the cost of their own care
· In addition, a further 13,595 individuals receive informal care from friends and family.
The new figures are included in an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health Report published today following an Inquiry by its chairman, Bob Blackman MP.
The report also highlights the faster decline in smoking rates in the North East, where smoking fell by 9.1% between 2005 and 2014 compared to a 6% fall nationally, with strong and continued commitment by local authorities to tackling smoking after responsibility for public health was transferred from the NHS.
Ailsa Rutter, Director of Fresh, said: "Smoking kills, but it also leaves thousands of people with years of life-limiting disability which can leave people housebound and requiring care.
"By helping more people to quit smoking now, not only will it improve their health but it will reduce social care costs and hospital re-admissions for people with long term conditions.
"We welcome this report and the recognition of North East local authorities to reduce the death toll and impact of smoking. We believe our biggest priority now is ensure that every time someone who smokes sees their GP or visits hospital, they are offered the support they need to quit."
John Pearce, Chair of the North East Regional Group for Directors of Adult Social Services, said: "There is not only rising demand for care but also increasing costs. It is not just hospital budgets that are affected. In a region like the North East with very high smoking rates in previous decades and an ageing population, we are seeing a high burden placed on social care.
"Preventing people from needing care in the first place is vital and reducing smoking can make an important contribution both to reducing the costs of care to councils and improving the quality of life for many who may otherwise need years of care.
"Though the Government has taken short term steps to try and relieve the serious strain being placed on individuals, councils and the NHS, without urgent action, the situation will only worsen."
Coun John Kelly, Sunderland City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Public Health, Wellness and Culture, gave up smoking during the Stoptober campaign in 2013.
He said: "Historically, Sunderland has a higher prevalence of people smoking and a larger older population, but there is a lot of good work going into helping people who want to give up smoking to quit.
"Delivering high quality stop smoking services in our communities is a priority for the council.
"We commission the Live Life Well service who can signpost you to the over 100 Stop Smoking Services across the city who support residents to quit smoking by raising the awareness of the harm caused by smoking and provide help, advice and information to those who need it.
"We currently have over 665 Sunderland Health Champions who have been trained to provide information and signposting around smoking cessation, and our Live Life Well Service provides additional advice and interventions.
"In 2015/16, 1188 people in Sunderland attempted to quit smoking and more than half of those had managed to stay quit four weeks later."
ASH chief executive Deborah Arnott said: "Smoking places an enormous pressure on our over stretched health and social care system, not to mention the many thousands of carers who spend their lives looking after loved ones.
"We know that most local authorities remain committed to reducing smoking but key services are under threat from public health funding cuts. In some areas this is being made worse by a lack of engagement from NHS partners.
"Local and national action is urgently needed to ensure the continuity of support to help smokers quit."