New analyses of authoritative national datasets funded by the public health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) shows that ill health caused by smoking has a substantial impact on the social care needs and costs across the South East.

Around 12,100 people are estimated to be receiving care support in their home because they are unable to care for themselves due to smoking related illness.

This alone costs councils in the region £89.4 million every year, with another £80.8 million spent by councils in the South East on residential social care to meet smoking caused needs . 

Smoking is the leading cause of premature death in England, killing 74,600 people in 2019 alone. However, smoking is also a leading cause of preventable illness – for every person killed by smoking, at least another 30 are estimated to be living with serious smoking-related disease and disability.

ASH analysis found that, on average, smokers in England need care when they are 63 years old, ten years earlier than never-smokers, and still of working age.

Around 1.5 million people in England are estimated to need help with everyday tasks such as dressing, walking across a room and using the toilet due to smoking. 

However, the significant sums spent by councils across the South East on social care needs caused by smoking each year, are not enough. Around 156,600 people in the South East are estimated to be receiving care from unpaid carers such as friends and family, while a further 64,300 people have care needs which are not met by paid or unpaid care.

Stretched budgets prevent councils from being able to cover the additional £2 billion it would cost to meet the full demand for care in the South East. 

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said: “Smoking has a devastating impact on our communities far beyond the tens of thousands of lives it takes every year. It profoundly undermines the quality of many people’s lives, often placing heavy demands on family and friends. “Securing the Government’s vision of a smokefree country by 2030 will make all the difference. It will ease pressure on the social care system and build resilience in our communities, enabling people to live longer, healthier lives. 

“Local authorities have a key role to play in ending smoking, but they cannot do it without additional funding. ASH backs calls on the government to introduce a ‘polluter pays’ levy on tobacco manufacturers to pay for the support needed to end smoking in this country.”


Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use.

For more information see: www.ash.org.uk/about-ash ASH receives funding for its programme of work from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation

By Ed