Shock report finds smoking costs Sunderland £71million a year

Smoking is costing Sunderland more than £70million a year, new figures estimate today.

Thursday, 31st May 2018, 6:00 am
A smoker. Pic by PA.
A smoker. Pic by PA.

Data published in time for World No Tobacco Day by Action on Smoking Health calculates that smoking costs the North East a massive £613.8million a year, with our city losing £71.8million to the burden placed on healthcare, productivity, social care, house fires and littering all because of smoking.

The figures show the additional pressure that smoking is putting on hospitals and GP surgeries, with the NHS in Sunderland affected by £13million.

Smoking figures for Sunderland.

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It is estimated that £46.2million is lost from the city’s economy and social care for residents needing to be looked after due to smoking costs £9.4million.

Researches found that Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service attend on average 11 smoking-related house fires in Sunderland, which costs the £2.2million.

The report also discovered that tobacco expenditure costs Sunderland £28.9million, with the city’s 40,266 smokers on average spending £2,050 a year on cigarettes.

Ailsa Rutter OBE, director of anti-smoking group Fresh, said: “We already know that smoking deprives people of many years of good health and robs families of years they could spend with loved ones.

Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, Smoke Free North East

“But these figures show the damage it does to communities, costing every individual, every family, every GP surgery, every council, business and hospital.

“It is also a major driver of poverty.

“We have seen the highest falls in smoking in England here in the North East and our local authorities deserve huge credit for working together to tackle this.

“However, smoking remains our largest cause of preventable death – the aim has to be to continue efforts to make smoking history for more children growing up here in the region.”

The Government’s Tobacco Plan for England “Towards a Smokefree Generation” outlines the importance of the NHS supporting smokers using, visiting or working in the NHS to quit.

A 2016 audit by the British Thoracic Society found that more than one in four hospital patients were not asked if they smoke and 50% of frontline staff are not given routine smoking cessation training.

Given the enormous burden tobacco places on society, ASH and Fresh argue that the tobacco industry should be forced to pay to address the harm it causes in line with the ‘polluter pays’ principle.

It is estimated that tobacco companies in the UK make a collective annual profit of around £1billion.

ASH and Fresh are now calling for the Government to place a levy on the tobacco industry with the money raised used to fund support for the recurring costs of tobacco control measures to reduce smoking prevalence, such as mass media campaigns, cessation services and local authority enforcement to prevent illicit trade and underage sales.

Earlier this week, the Echo reported how council leader Graeme Miller was backing plans to reduce smoking levels in Sunderland, citing the “enormous” costs to families and the city.

Although Sunderland’s smoking rate has dropped from 24.6% in 2010 to 18% in 2016 – it’s still higher than the 15.5% England average.

In a bid to meet a 5% Government target by 2025, the city council’s health and wellbeing board agreed plans to tackle the “priority” issue last week.

Coun Miller, who sits as chairman of the board, said: “Tobacco and alcohol blight us.

“The cost to families and the city because of the cost of dealing with it is enormous.”

A council report said that the annual cost of smoking to Wearside could even be as high as £94.6million.