World No Tobacco Day

Smoking costs Councils in North West more than £91m a year in social care costs

New figures from Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) show that councils in the North West are paying more than £91m a year to help people with smoking-related illness to live in their own homes (domiciliary care). The true figure could be much higher because of lack of information on some costs. There are no figures at all for what councils spend to support people aged under 50.

Individuals across the region also face a bill of over £67 million to cover the cost of their own care. This means that more than £158 million is spent unnecessarily on social care every year in the North West as a result of smoking.

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For the first time the new research has estimated the cost of smoking to the social care system. It reveals that current smokers over 50 are twice as likely to need help with day-to-day living and on average need care nine years earlier than non-smokers.

The study shows that every year 5,600 more people in the North West need local authority social care as a result of smoking. However, smoking means that in the region of 126,000 people are receiving unpaid care from friends or family.

The costs of smoking to the social care system in England also shows that local authorities spend more as a proportion of their care budgets on smoking-related care than the NHS does.

Dr Janet Atherton, a Director of Public Health in Sefton speaking on behalf of North West Directors of Public Health said: “For every person who dies from smoking, 20 are living with a smoking-related illness. This research allows us to quantify that impact, not just on local authority funded services but also on our local communities. Smokers not only die younger but need care on average nine years earlier than non-smokers. Local support to help people quit and to reduce the number of young people taking up smoking is vital.”

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH commented: “From next April when the Care Act 2014 becomes law councils will also have to fund the extra social care costs of preventative measures in order to reduce the need for care in people’s homes – this at a time when they face further cuts to their budgets.”

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“Investing in tobacco control and supporting smokers to quit will have to be high on the list of preventative measures to enable councils to cut their social care bills in the future. Our research has funding estimates for every top tier English local authority to help councils plan and cost services at local level more effectively.

“Local authorities are facing a financial squeeze that makes effective and targeted spending on preventative services all the more important.”

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