As many as 1.35 million cases of illness caused by using tobacco products will occur in the next two decades, a report from Cancer Research UK has warned.
Aiming high: Why the UK should be tobacco free, presents the case for the government to advocate a tobacco-free UK where less than 5% of the population across all socioeconomic groups smoke. The report states that if current smoking trends continue a tobacco-free ambition will not be achieved and could result in higher rates of disease and an increasing financial burden on the NHS. The illnesses identified in the report as set to increase are COPD, CHD, stroke and 14 different types of cancers. The charity predicts that the UK could see a further 580,600 cases of cancer by 2035.
Tobacco-related diseases would cost an additional £3.6billion a year – £542million to the NHS and £3.03billion to the wider public sector. The report also identified a socioeconomic disparity in the estimated smoking rates, with around 15% of people from the most deprived groups predicted to smoke in 2035, compared to just 2.5% from the more affluent groups.
‘Decades of work have gone into reducing the number of people who will be affected by a tobacco-related illness,’ said Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s director of cancer prevention. ‘There’s been great progress, but unless more is done, another generation of lives will be devastated by smoking.’
Positively, the proportion of smokers is on track to fall to 10% of the population by 2035. However, according to the report, a rate of 5% would lead to a fall of 97,000 new cases of smoking-related disease including around 36,000 cases of cancer. Achieving this rate would then avoid around £67million in direct NHS costs, and £548 million in indirect societal costs in 2035.
'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,’ said Jane Landon, deputy chief executive of the UK Health Forum. ‘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.’