Smoking is costing England at least £1bn every year in care costs for people struck down with debilitating diseases early in life, new research has shown.
For every one person that is killed by smoking every year, 20 are living with a smoking-related illness, and nearly a million now require support with basic tasks.
A new analysis by the charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) reveals that local councils are now spending £600m every year on home care for the most severely ill.
This is on top of a £450m annual bill faced by individuals to cover the cost of their own care for smoking-related illnesses, the charity said.
In England, 47,000 people are receiving council-funded social care for health problems caused by smoking including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), while 846,000 are receiving unpaid care from friends or family members.
Although the analysis only looked at councils in England, smoking rates are even higher in Scotland and Wales and the cost of social care is growing UK-wide.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said that the social care burden associated with smoking was often underestimated.
“It’s a ticking time bomb – the longer you smoke the more likely you are to suffer from these problems that can impact your quality of life,” she said.
“We focus on people dying from smoking, and people think that smoking only means dying a bit earlier. But it also means getting ill earlier and living with disability.”
Liberal Democrat MP and former health minister Paul Burstow, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health said that the report made “a powerful case” for investing in quit smoking services now to save money on social care in the future.