£760 million annual bill from smoking ‘adding to social care crisis’
Smoking is costing local authorities in England £760 million a year in social care, a new report warns.
The All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health urged the Government to renew its efforts to reduce smoking rates and look at ways to force tobacco companies to pay for health campaigns.
It said a government strategy on smoking is now a year overdue.
The group added that local authorities in England are struggling to fund Stop Smoking Services due to government cuts. And with the bill for social care costs locally rising from £600 million in 2012, the report predicts this situation will get worse.
The study, produced by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said that the tobacco companies whose products cause health, social and economic damage “should make a greater contribution to mitigating that harm”.
"The four major tobacco manufacturers remain among the most profitable companies on Earth, so they could certainly afford to do this," it said.
Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s director of cancer prevention, called the cuts to public health budgets “short-sighted” and said the new report highlights the impact tobacco has on health and social care costs.
“Cutting the Public Health Grant is short-sighted if the Government is genuinely committed to reducing health inequalities, for which smoking is the leading cause,” she said.
“The Government must publish the new Tobacco Control Strategy for England without further delay and find a sustainable funding solution for tobacco control.
“This will help to reduce the enormous pressures tobacco places on local authorities and enable them to deliver effective tobacco control measures.”
The cost of smoking in England is thought to be at least £14.2 billion a year, including NHS, social care and lost productivity costs.
Social care costs are thought to stand at £1.4 billion annually, including £760 million to local authorities and £630 million worth of private care funded by individual people.
Smoking is the leading cause of early, preventable death in England and leads to almost 80,000 premature deaths every year.
Smoking levels are now at their lowest ever point, but almost one in five (18%) adults still smoke.
MP Bob Blackman, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health who called for an inquiry on these costs, said smoking is contributing to the social care crisis.
"The situation will worsen if funding to local stop smoking services continues to be cut,” he said.
“Smoking is the leading cause of health inequalities in the UK so this puts at serious risk progress towards the Prime Minister's ambition to reduce the burning injustice caused by inequality."
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said: "Smoking places an enormous pressure on our over-stretched health and social care system, not to mention the many thousands of carers who spend their lives looking after loved ones."
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "We have made great progress on smoking with rates amongst adults currently at a record low. However, smoking remains the biggest preventable killer and we are determined to reduce the harm caused by tobacco even further.
"We will invest more than £16 billion in local government public health services between 2016 and 2021 and will publish our new tobacco control plan shortly."