A new research from Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) shows that more than 30,000 households could be lifted out of poverty if Northeasterners quit smoking.
The research has also found that on average households which include a smoker spend more than £2,000 pounds a year on tobacco.
These households comprise around 59,000 people, including 18,000 children and 8,842 pensioners.
Lisa Surtees, Acting Director of Fresh, said: “Smoking puts poorer families under significant financial pressure. This in turn places a burden on local services and negatively impacts the local economy. Quitting smoking not only saves lives but puts money back into the pockets of the poorest households in our community.
“At a time when so many people are struggling, these figures show how thousands of North East families could feel better off by quitting smoking. Most smokers regret ever starting and do not want their own children to start.
“More than ever it’s the poorest people in our society who take up smoking younger and are more likely to suffer from tobacco related diseases from middle age.
“The North East pays a heavy price, while the tobacco industry profits.”
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, ASH reports.
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.”