Smoking is costing South Tyneside almost £35million a year, new figures have shown.
Data published in time for World No Tobacco Day by Action on Smoking Health shows that smoking costs the North East a massive £613.8million a year, with our area losing £34.2million 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 South Tyneside down to the tune of £7.1million.
It is estmated that £20million is lost from the borough’s economy and social care for residents needing to be looked after due to smoking costs £5.4million.
Researches found that Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service attend on average six smoking-related house fires a year in South Tyneside, which costs the £1.2million.
The report also discovered that tobacco expenditure costs the borough £11.1million, with its 22,183 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.
“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.