More than 580,000 cases of cancer have been calculated if recent smoking trends continue.
This equates to more than the populations of Sunderland and Newcastle put together.
Cancer Research UK and the UK Health Forum brought out a report, called Aiming High: Why The UK Should Aim to be Tobacco Free, on No Smoking Day (March 9).
The report found that tobacco will continue to devastate UK lives, with around 1.35 million new cases of smoking related illnesses expected to occur over the next 20 years.
Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s director of cancer prevention, said: “Decades of work have gone into reducing the number of people who will be affected by a tobacco-related illness. There’s been great progress, but unless more is done, another generation of lives will be devastated by smoking.
“Recent figures have started to show that the decline in smoking rates is stalling so these estimates could be considered optimistic. If we lose focus then the burden of preventable disease could threaten the sustainability of the NHS and social care.”
Jane Landon, deputy chief executive of the UK Health Forum, added: “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.
“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.”
It has been estimated that getting the North East down to 5 per cent of smoking sooner – by 2025 – would save thousands of lives and an estimated £100m a year, freeing up around £50m for the NHS.
It is believed that this would significantly ease the strain on hospitals and GP surgeries, as well as significantly cutting the cost of smoking related sickness on local businesses.
The calculations are made using the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence’s Tobacco Return on Investment Tool.
Stop Smoking Services and mass media campaigns to help hard-to-reach groups quit smoking are two essential measures to help save lives from tobacco.
However, both of these measures are being hit hard by Government cuts, it is reported.
Sir Kevin Barron MP, vice chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health, added: “Smoking still kills 100,000 people in the UK each year and increasingly the burden falls on the poorest communities.
“The Government can’t be complacent and must set bold ambitions to achieve a tobacco-free future, matched with the necessary funding to make this happen.
“Making the tobacco industry pay for vital Stop Smoking Services and mass media campaigns through a levy will help reduce the number of people smoking and save lives.”
Tobacco will continue to have a greater impact on the less well-off than the wealthier in society. About 15 per cent of men and women from the most deprived groups are predicted to smoke in 2035, compared to just 2.5 per cent from the more affluent.
If recent trends were to continue, in 2035 alone tobacco-related diseases could cost an additional £3.6billion a year – made up of £542m to the NHS and £3.03bn to wider society.
Achieving a tobacco-free ambition would then avoid around £67m in direct NHS costs, and £548m in indirect societal costs in 2035.
Alongside publication of the report, Cancer Research UK is submitting more than 16,000 signatures of support for its Cough Up Big Tobacco campaign to Parliament.
The overwhelming show of support aims to make the tobacco industry pay around one penny for every cigarette sold in the UK.
This tobacco levy would be one way of funding the current shortfall in money available to fund Stop Smoking Services.
The money would be used to pay for Stop Smoking Services and advertising campaigns to support smokers to quit.
It is a measure recommended in the Smoking Still Kills report and endorsed in the Cancer Strategy for England.