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1.3m smoking-related diseases over next two decades

10 March 2016


Around 1.3 million new smoking related illnesses which devastate lives are expected to occur over the next 20 years, according to a new report published on No Smoking Day 2016.


Cancer Research UK and the UK Health Forum calculate that this shocking total would include 580,600 cases of cancer – more than the populations of Newcastle and Sunderland put together, or more than the combined population of Teesside.


If recent trends were to continue, the number of smokers would be on track to fall to 10 per cent by 2035, but Cancer Research UK is urging the government to adopt a bold ambition for a tobacco free UK – meaning only around five per cent smoke in the next 20 years.


It has been estimated getting the North East down to 5% of smoking sooner – by 2025 – would save thousands of lives and an estimated £100million a year, freeing up around £50million for the NHS, significantly easing the strain on hospitals and GP surgeries, as well as significantly cutting the cost of smoking related sickness on local businesses. The calculations are made using the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence's Tobacco Return on Investment Tool.


Stop Smoking Services and mass media campaigns to help hard-to-reach groups quit smoking are two essential measures to help save lives from tobacco. Both these measures are being hit hard by government cuts.


Tobacco will continue to have a greater impact on the less well-off than the wealthier in society. Around 15 per cent of men and women from the most deprived groups are predicted to smoke in 2035, compared to just 2.5 per cent from the more affluent.


If recent trends were to continue, in 2035 alone, tobacco-related diseases could cost an additional £3.6billion a year – made up of £542m to the NHS and £3.03bn to wider society.


Achieving a tobacco-free ambition would then avoid around £67m in direct NHS costs, and £548m in indirect societal costs in 2035.


Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK's director of cancer prevention, said: "Decades of work have gone into reducing the number of people who will be affected by a tobacco-related illness. There's been great progress, but unless more is done, another generation of lives will be devastated by smoking.


"Recent figures have started to show that the decline in smoking rates is stalling so these estimates could be considered optimistic. If we lose focus then the burden of preventable disease could threaten the sustainability of the NHS and social care."


Alongside publication of the report, Cancer Research UK is submitting more than 16,000 signatures of support for its "Cough Up Big Tobacco" campaign to Parliament. The overwhelming show of support aims to make the tobacco industry pay around one penny for every cigarette sold in the UK. This tobacco levy would be one way of funding the current shortfall in money available to fund Stop Smoking Services.


The money would be used to pay for Stop Smoking Services and advertising campaigns to support smokers to quit. It is a measure recommended in the Smoking Still Kills report and endorsed in the Cancer Strategy for England.


Jane Landon, deputy chief executive of the UK Health Forum, said: "Our projections show smoking will still take a terrible toll on people's health and the economy and increasingly this will be borne by the less well-off in our society. All smokers should be offered the chance to quit and Stop Smoking Services, supported by high-profile media campaigns are the best way to achieve this."


Sir Kevin Barron MP, vice chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health, said: "Smoking still kills 100,000 people in the UK each year and increasingly the burden falls on the poorest communities. The Government can't be complacent and must set bold ambitions to achieve a tobacco-free future, matched with the necessary funding to make this happen. Making the Tobacco Industry pay for vital Stop Smoking Services and mass media campaigns through a levy will help reduce the number of people smoking and save lives."