Smokers could be banned from council sites as habit's staggering cost to taxpayers is revealed
PUBLISHED: 09:24 14 July 2019 | UPDATED: 21:50 15 July 2019
Smokers could soon be banned from lighting up on council land as a new report reveals the habit's staggering cost to Norfolk taxpayers.
Norfolk County Council's people and communities select committee will next week consider whether to follow the NHS's lead on going "smoke-free" across its sites.
It comes as a report, which will go before the committee on July 19, claims the wider impacts of tobacco-related harm cost Norfolk £187.8m each year.
The Norfolk Tobacco Control Alliance Action Plan report says there are about 98,000 adult smokers in the county, with about 1.1m cigarettes consumed each day.
Committee members are now being asked to consider whether all of the council's sites should go smoke-free to reduce demand on tobacco products.
While the report puts the cost of smoking at £187.8m, Dr Louise Smith, the council's director of public health, says the figure is higher.
She said: "We estimate that smoking has an annual impact of £220m in Norfolk, ranging from the costs of deaths to staff sickness, loss of business productivity, house fires and litter collection.
"By contrast it is estimated that smokers pay about £120m in duty on tobacco products each year."
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While the adult smoking rate continues to fall year-on-year in Norfolk, it remains high among manual workers, the unemployed and in lower social economic communities, the report says.
It also claims that Norfolk's fire service will attend 31 smoking-related house fires, costing the county about £4.4m.
Dr Smith said: "Smoking is still the single biggest cause of premature death and although numbers of smokers are dropping we still have some way to go."
The report says the sale of illegal tobacco is prolific in some parts of Norfolk and is often part of organised criminal activity.
A subgroup of the county's Tobacco Control Alliance is being formed to address this issue.
The county council is responsible for Norfolk's tobacco control strategy, which aims to reduce the number of people smoking.
It formed the Tobacco Control Alliance to achieve this by working with health, local government, voluntary and academic sectors.
The county council was asked for more details about potential smoke-free sites, but a spokesperson said the questions will be considered by the committee next week.
While committee members can recommend that the council goes smoke-free, the decision will still have to go before the cabinet.