Counting the cost of smoking

NORTHUMBERLAND’S taxpayers are coughing up more than £10million a year because of smoking, according to new figures.

The statistics from FRESH, in partnership with Brunel University, combined with existing figures from the North East Public Health Observatory, reveal the problems caused by the habit in terms of lives lost, costs and dangers to others.

They were broken down to each local authority area and smoking-related disease in the county is estimated to cost the NHS £11.55million per year.

The annual amount of funding required to cover hospital admissions alone is calculated to be £6.23million.

At current smoking levels, there will be approximately 445 deaths in Northumberland each year in adults aged 35 and over that are directly attributable to smoking.

This equates to 225.3 deaths per every 100,000 people in the area, which is higher than the England average of 216, but lower than the North East average of 282.5.

Although there has been a reduction in recent years, there are still approximately 46,500 smokers in total across the county.

According to the latest 2010/11 end of year figures, 614 Northumberland women were recorded as smoking at the time they gave birth.

The research found that North East taxpayers are forking out more than £100million each year and the annual cost to the region’s employers through increased absenteeism and smoking breaks is estimated to be around £70million.

Director of FRESH Ailsa Rutter said: “These are very stark figures that really help to demonstrate the scale of the problem that smoking causes.

“Detailed studies show that the cost of smoking completely outweighs what it generates in VAT.

“The tragedy is that most smokers start as children and most go on to regret ever having started.”

There was some encouraging data in the research because during 2010/11, NHS Stop Smoking Services helped more than 58,000 North East smokers to quit and the number of quitters for the population size was the highest in the country for a record 10 consecutive years.

Director of Public Health for Northumberland Professor Sue Milner said: “Smoking is the single greatest cause of preventable illness and premature death in Northumberland, Newcastle and North Tyneside.

“The benefits of giving up smoking are instant.

“After 20 minutes blood pressure starts to fall, in 24 hours the body is free from carbon monoxide and in 10 years an ex-smoker has lowered their risk of heart disease to the same level as someone who has never smoked before.”