£7m...true cost of treating resort’s smoking epidemic

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The true cost of treating Blackpool’s epidemic of smoking-related illness has today been revealed – with more than £7m spent every year by the health service.

The figures, produced as part of a Blackpool Council report, revealed each year there are more than 400 smoking-related deaths in the resort – a quarter of all deaths each year – with 2,125 smoking-related hospital admissions.

Coun Eddie Collett

Coun Eddie Collett

Figures show a further £744,000 is spent coping with illnesses related to second hand smoke.

Health leaders today called the findings “disappointing” and “frustrating” and pledged to do more to lower the use of tobacco in the resort.

Coun Eddie Collett (pictured), Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “The vast part of that £7m is either straightforward hospital care such as nurses and doctors and treatment, while there will be some adult and social care which contributes to that figure too.

“The result of smoking can be a long and painful death.

“People need looking after. It is very tragic.

“I have worked in this role for the council for around 12 months now and I’ve quickly stopped becoming shocked and start becoming disappointed when I see this information.

“I get so frustrated. I see no social benefits with smoking. I see no positive effects – but it is absolutely addictive to people.

“I know several people who have tried to give up. It is not as if people do not try, but it is incredibly addictive.”

Figures released by Public Health England in November showed smoking among adults in Blackpool is down to 26.5 per cent from 29.5 per cent in 2012/13. Smoking during pregnancy has fallen significantly too, going down from 30.8 per cent in 2012/13 to 27.5 per cent.

There has also been a plunge in smoking among workers in manual and skilled trade jobs, a group commonly associated with high levels of tobacco use – from 44.3 per cent to 36.8 per cent.

But figures are still well above the national average of 20 per cent – a situation the council is trying to change.

It has pledged to sign up to the Government’s declaration on tobacco control, a pledge to ensure tobacco control is part of mainstream public health work and commits councils to taking comprehensive action to address the harm from smoking.

Other measures, including the smoking ban and a general negative attitude to smoking have helped, according to Coun Collett.

He added: “The (reduction in smoking) figures are all the campaigns and messages finally getting through.

“Some people have managed to stop smoking, others are now using vapour e-cigarettes.

“ If it was down to me, I would up the tax to make it impossible to buy cigarettes, but that will never happen.

“We have to do more to keep up with the strong messages and ensure figures continue to fall.”

The council report, to be reviewed next Monday at an executive committee meeting, has been prepared by Coun Collett and Dr Arif Rajpura, director of public health for Blackpool.

It said: “For Blackpool to become a more successful town, with opportunities for everyone to flourish, everyone needs to remove the burden of ill health, which tobacco contributes significantly to.”

Speaking in November, Hannah Corless, health education practitioner for Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said the inpatient Tobacco Specialist Service had received more than 1,600 patient referrals since April 2014 for advice around stopping smoking.

She said: “Improved smoking cessation training opportunities for Trust employees has enabled staff to motivate more patients to quit.

“We continue to promote our site as smoke-free and we support the protection of patients, visitors and staff from second-hand smoke.”