Revealed: The cost of smoking on England’s social care system

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Smokers develop a need for social care a decade earlier than those who have never smoked, a new report has found.

Analysis by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) showed that the average age that smokers develop a need for social care is 62, compared to 72 in people who have never smoked in their lives.

The report, ‘Social care costs: Going up in smoke’, also found that the cost of smoking-related social care to local authorities is £720 million a year, while the cost of smoking-related social care to individuals who pay for their own care is £160 million a year.

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Last year, smoking killed 78,000 people in England alone, according to NHS Digital. But the costs of smoking don’t stop there – for every person killed by smoking, at least 30 people live with a serious smoking-related illness.

Currently, 670,000 people over the age of 50 have care needs as a result of smoking and though 55% of these adults receive the support they need, 45% (300,000) have unmet care needs, ASH said in its report.

Informal carers, who help with tasks at no cost, provide care for more than half (345,000) of those affected.  This would cost an additional £10.6 billion if it were provided by paid carers.

The report findings are based on multi-wave analysis of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) by Landman Economics for ASH. Of the respondents aged over 50, one in four (23.5%) current smokers need help with at least one of six activities of daily living, compared to never smokers, who were almost half as likely (12.1%) to need help.

Ciaran Osborne, Director of Policy at ASH said: “Disease and disability caused by smoking leads people to need social care a whole decade sooner than if they had never smoked. Not only is this severely detrimental to their quality of life, it also puts avoidable strains on England’s creaking social care system. Local authorities should support smokers in their communities to make an annual quit attempt as stopping smoking will help them maintain their quality of life as they age.”

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Sarah Clarke

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