Counting the cost of smoking

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NEW figures released by a stop- smoking programme show for the first time the true cost of smoking to the North East in lives lost, illness and the toll of finances – costing the region more than £210million pounds every year.

The statistics from Fresh, the North East’s stop smoking programme, in partnership with Brunel University, combined with existing figures from the North East Public Health Observatory, reveal the toll smoking inflicts on lives lost, illness and the resulting cost on the NHS, local authorities and private business.

In Northumberland 18 per cent of adults are estimated to smoke regularly, this rises to 24.3 per cent among people employed in routine and manual occupations.

Smoking rates in Northumberland are the lowest in the North East and lower than the English average.

However there are still approximately 46,500 smokers in total across the county.

At current smoking levels, there will be approximately 445 deaths in Northumberland each year in adults aged 35 and over which are directly attributable to smoking. This equates to 225.3 deaths per every 100,000 people living in the county. This is lower than the North East average of 282.5, and comparable to the English average of 216.

The overall cost of smoking-related hospital admissions in Northumberland alone is calculated to be £6.23million per year. Smoking is also estimated to cost Northumberland £2million per year in terms of additional GP consultations. Overall, smoking- related disease in Northumberland is estimated to cost the NHS £11.55million per year.

According to latest 2010/11 end of year figures, 614 Northumberland women were recorded as smoking at the time they gave birth. This equates to 20.5 per cent of all maternities within the locality so far this year. While marginally lower than the average for the North East (21.1 per cent), this smoking at delivery figure is still significantly higher than the national average (13.5 per cent).

Prof Sue Milner, director of public health for Northumberland, said: “Smoking is the single greatest cause of preventable illness and premature death in Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland.

“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.

“Quitting smoking remains the single most important thing you can do to improve your health.

“There is a variety of help and support available for people who would like to give up smoking and I want to urge as many people as possible to give it a try.”