Smoking-Related Illnesses

Smoking-Related Illnesses put 35,000 in Hospital Annually in Northern Ireland

A recent report from the Northern Ireland Audit Office highlights a concerning trend, with almost 35,000 individuals being hospitalized each year due to smoking-related illnesses. While the number of smokers has decreased by approximately 10% since 2011, the prevalence of smoking remains alarmingly high within vulnerable demographics.

Published on Tuesday, the “Tackling the Public Health Impacts of Smoking and Vaping” report sheds light on the significant impact of smoking-related illnesses, costing the health service an estimated £218 million annually. Auditor General Dorinnia Carville emphasized that smoking is a major contributor to health inequalities, with smoking-related deaths being 98% higher in the most deprived areas compared to the least deprived.

Key statistics from the report include:

  • About 2,200 deaths in Northern Ireland annually are attributable to smoking.
  • The Public Health Agency (PHA) spent £3.23 million on tobacco control in 2021-22.
  • In 2022-23, 8,000 people set “quit dates” through PHA-funded services.

The report recommends that the health service consider budgetary requirements for delivering a comprehensive tobacco and vaping strategy. Notably, vaping levels among adults have almost doubled from 5% to 9% between 2014-15 and 2022-23, emphasizing the need for enhanced enforcement of tobacco and vaping regulations.

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Auditor General Carville stressed the importance of focusing on prevention, considering the progress achieved in reducing overall smoking prevalence over the past decade. However, she emphasized that smoking remains a significant threat to public health and places a strain on public finances.

In response to the rise in vaping, the report suggests preparing for a future combined tobacco and vaping strategy. The UK government has also announced plans to ban disposable vapes to address the increasing number of young people taking up vaping. Measures to prevent marketing vapes to children and tackle underage sales will be introduced.

Amidst the absence of the Northern Ireland Executive, the Department of Health stated that it would make preparations to enable a future health minister to make a decision on the proposed ban.

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