STAGGERING new estimates show the cost of smoking to the North East to be over £887 million a year in healthcare, social care costs and lost earnings, besides the human cost of lost lives.

The analysis of national data for charity Action on Smoking and Health published today shows the cost of smoking to society totals £17.04bn for England each year, which is higher than previous estimates.

In County Durham alone, the cost to the NHS is over £26 million, with £141.7 million spent annually by smokers and £170.7 million wasted in lost earnings.

The figures are based on 15.26 per cent of adult smokers in the North East, or around 326,000 people, which is higher than other parts of the country.

Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh and Balance

Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh and Balance

Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh and Balance, 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.

“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.

“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.”

It is estimated that around £634 million goes up on smoke on tobacco and cigarettes in the North East at a time when the cost of living is rising.

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Economic analysis commissioned by ASH last year found that if the country could stub out smoking for good the economic benefits would go even wider as smokers switch their spending from tobacco to other goods and services which benefit the economy more.

In total this would generate around half a million jobs, with a net benefit to public finances of £600m .

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health said: “Smoking is a drain on society.

“It’s a cost to individuals in terms of their 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.”

Rising living costs mean working families are set to be around £1,700 worse off by next April.

A ten a day smoker spending £9 per pack of cigarettes is spending around £1,642 a year, £135 a month, around £31 a week and an incredible £8212 in five years on cigarettes.

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 she 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.”

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