The average age at which smokers develop a social care need for the first time is 62, compared to 72 for never-smokers, according to a research report published today by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).
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 and the cost of smoking-related social care to individuals who pay for their own care is £160 million a year.
Last year, smoking killed 78,000 people in England alone. 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.
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.
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.”
Smokers who quit by 30 can avoid almost all the long-term health consequences of smoking, as well as reducing the likelihood they’ll need social care.
Local authorities should set a local smoking prevalence target and work to reduce prevalence rates locally by:
- Denormalising smoking
- Promoting an annual quit attempt
- 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.
Helping people to quit smoking today will mean lower social care costs in the future for both local authorities and smokers. It will also mean fewer people relying on informal care or having to live with unmet care needs.