Smoking related social care costs councils £720 million, says report

Smoking related social care costs councils £720 million, says report

A new report report by ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) has found that the cost of smoking-related social care to local authorities could be as much as £720 million a year.

The report Social care costs: Going up in smoke reveals that smoking killed 78,000 people in England  and that for every person killed by smoking, at least 30 people live with a serious smoking-related illness.

670,000 people over 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.

Informal carers, friends and family members who help with tasks at no cost, provide care for 345,000 of the total due to smoking which 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 respondents over 50, one in four (23.5%) current smokers need help with at least one of six activities of daily living (ADLs), compared to never smokers, who were almost half as likely (12.1%) to need help.

The report recommends that local authorities should set a local smoking prevalence target and work to reduce prevalence rates locally by denormalising smoking; Promoting an annual quit attempt, and; Providing diverse stop smoking support.

Central Government should commit to extending and enhancing tobacco industry regulation to ensure delivery of its ambition of ending smoking by 2030 to include:

  • Imposing a ‘polluter pays’ charge on the tobacco manufacturers to fund tobacco control including anti-smoking campaigns, enforcement and targeted support for smokers to quit.
  • Stricter regulation of tobacco marketing including, for example, requiring retailers to have a licence, raising the age of sale and requiring pack inserts which promote quitting.


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.”

Responding to the report, Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:

“Councils are responsible for public health and doing everything they can to help smokers quit, including running a range of innovative programmes and services to encourage them to stub out tobacco for good.

“While smoking rates continue to fall, there needs to be greater targeting of those groups most in need of support, including preventing younger adults from continuing the habit into later life and developing further health problems. 


“In order to achieve the Government’s Prevention green paper ambition of eliminating smoking by 2030, councils need adequate long-term funding for their public health services. We need to shift towards promoting healthy choices, preventing sickness and intervening early to minimise the need for costly social care and hospital treatment.   

“We also need the Government to publish its proposals for the future of adult social care as soon as possible, so that all those who use and work in social care have the support and certainty they need.”