Smoking runs up £55m tab in South Tyneside

Smoking is hitting the local economy in South Tyneside by a staggering £55m a year, according to new estimates.

Sue Mountain
Sue Mountain

That is part of a £887m a year bill for medical, social care and lost earnings – and deaths – in the North East.

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) data published today shows the cost of smoking to society totals £17bn in England each year.

Anti smoking campaigners say it is a “scandal” that tobacco companies make huge profits – but leave the NHS and local authorities to “pay for their damage” and called for them to be made to pay for the cost.

Ailsa Rutter of Fresh

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The figures for South Tyneside show that treating smoking-related illnesses costs the NHS £7.4m, runs up a £4.8m social care bill and adds up to £42.4m in lost earnings.

It is also estimated smokers in the area spend £38m on the habit.

Ailsa Rutter, director of regional anti-smoking group Fresh, said: “Smoking is our biggest preventable killer and a tragedy to the tens of thousands of families who lose a loved one every year.

"We already know that smoking deprives people of many years of good health and robs families of years they could spend with loved ones.

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South Tyneside's £55m smoking bill

“These figures are a reminder of the damage smoking also does to communities - individuals, families, councils, businesses and hospital."

She added: “It is a scandal that tobacco companies are still making enormous profits from peddling this killer addiction while the NHS and local authorities are expecting to pay for their damage. It is time that tobacco companies are made to pay for the cost.”

She added: “We need to ensure that the next generation does not end up on our hospital wards or requiring help with social care to wash or get dressed as a result of smoking.”

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Sue Mountain, from South Tyneside, underwent laser treatment in 2012 after a biopsy revealed she had throat cancer.

The cancer returned in 2014 which required radiotherapy every day for four weeks and Sue has warned how smoking affected not just on health but her job, finances and family.

She said: “When I look back at what I have spent on cigarettes, it must have been £50,000 at least. It could have bought me half a house, instead of cancer.”

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said: “These figures show smoking is a drain on society. It’s a cost in terms of health and wealth and a cost to us all because it undermines the productivity of our economy and places additional burdens on our NHS and care services.

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“The Government have delayed the tobacco control plan it promised last year which is now urgently needed with only eight years left to achieve the goal of England being smokefree by 2030.”

In the North East – which has historically has the highest smoking rates of smoking – more than 113,000 people have died since the start of the Millennium. The region has also seen the biggest fall in smoking in England since 2005 – when 29% of adults, or 581,000 people smoked – drop to around 15.3% in 2019.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health has called on the Government to include new measures in its forthcoming Tobacco Control Plan – including laws forcing tobacco manufacturers to pay.