Thousands in poverty because of smoking

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SHOCKING figures claim that more than 4,000 people in St Helens are living in poverty because of smoking.

Public health charity Action on Smoking and Health has published a Local Poverty Calculator which estimates that 2,164 households in the borough would be lifted out of poverty if they became smoke-free.

The figures estimate that these households include 2,106 adults below the pension age, around 618 pension age adults and 1,301 dependent children meaning a total of 4,025 people would not be below the poverty line if the cost of smoking was returned to the household.

The charity says that when net income and smoking expenditure is taken into account, there are 5,565 or 31 per cent, of households with a smoker fall below the poverty line.

The calculator shows 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.

In a statement alongside the calculator by the charity reads: “Raising tax is the only tobacco control intervention which has been proven to have a greater effect on more disadvantaged smokers at population level and so contribute to reducing health inequalities.

“ASH supports increasing tobacco taxation as long as the same time HM Government continues to provide adequate funding for measures to help smokers to quit and population measures to reduce smoking.”

The national data, first published in June, shows that of the five million households in England that include an adult smoker are below the poverty line.

An estimated 418,000 households could be lifted out of poverty if they quit smoking.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health 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.”

Most people start smoking as teenagers and after a year of smoking 85 per cent say they would find it difficult to quit.

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. These smokers often need more support than others to successfully quit.

Professor John Moxham, 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.”