New figures show each local authority how many people could be lifted out of poverty if they quit smoking

Wednesday 28 October 2015

A new ‘Local Poverty Calculator’ published today by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) shows local councils how many people in their area are in poverty because of smoking and what an impact services to help people quit smoking can have to reduce rates of poverty [1].

The national data, first published in June [2], shows that of the 5 million households in England that include an adult smoker 1.4 million (27%) are below the poverty line. An estimated 418,000 households could be lifted out of poverty if they quit smoking. These households comprise roughly 1.1 million people including 325,000 children and 156,000 pensioners. On average households that include a smoker spend £2,158 a year on tobacco.

Local authorities can find out what the figures mean for them and access a health inequalities toolkit that provides advice for local authorities and the NHS on how to reduce smoking rates among those experiencing health inequalities. [3]

Most people start smoking as teenagers and after a year of smoking 85% say they would find it difficult to quit [4]. Smokers often try to quit many times before they are successful but those from disadvantaged backgrounds face particular barriers as they are more likely to be highly addicted and to live in communities where smoking rates are high [5]. These smokers often need more support than others to successfully quit.

Professor John Moxham, [6] Professor of Respiratory Medicine at King’s College London School of Medicine said:

“Smoking disproportionately affects the most disadvantaged in society and is one of the major reasons that poorer people get ill and die younger. Smokers from poorer backgrounds tend to start younger and are more likely to become more highly addicted, with their addiction contributing to ongoing poverty. The Government must support local authorities to end these unacceptable inequalities.”

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Heath said:

“Smoking puts poorer families under significant financial pressure. This in turn places a burden on local services and negatively impacts the local economy. Investment in services is vital to reduce smoking prevalence. This will not only save lives but it will put money back into the pockets of the poorest households.”


Notes to Editors

[1] Local Poverty Calculator, ASH

[2] Published in Smoking Still Kills based on an analysis by Howard Reed for Landman Economics for ASH, entitled “Estimates of poverty in the UK adjusted for expenditure on tobacco”, May 2015. The definition of poverty used is income below 60 percent of median household net income, adjusted for family size exclusive of housing costs.

[3] Health inequalities resource pack, ASH

England North West North East Yorkshire &Humber East Midlands West Midlands East England London South West South East
Number of households with a smoker 5.1m 730,000 302,000 555,000 455,000 513,000 534,000 742,000 488,000 778,000
Number and % of households with a smoker below the poverty line when tobacco expenditure is included 1.4m (27%) 224,000 102,000 182,000 158,000 172,000 155,000 125,000 106,000 175,000
Number of households which could be brought above the poverty line if they quit smoking 418,00 87,000 34,000 47,000 36,000 53,000 34,000 46,000 25,000 57,000
Number of individuals who could be brought above the poverty line if they quit smoking 1.1m 156,000 59,000 118,000 96,000 127,000 112,000 164,000 108,000 155,000

[4] Smoking drinking and drug use among young people in England in 2014. Health & Social Care Information Centre, 2015.

[5] 2013 Opinions & Lifestyle Survey. Office for National Statistics, Nov. 2014

[6] Professor Moxham is also the Director of Clinical Strategy for King’s Health Partners and Chair of the Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Board of Trustees.