Wiltshire Council health chiefs have revealed that almost 3,000 people in the county can’t work because their smoking has made them too ill.

But the good news is that the number of Wiltshire smokers who are trying to give up the habit that kills around 500 each year in the county has almost doubled.

A report on the effects of smoking released today by the council claims that “2,921 people are economically inactive due to smoking”.

The council warns “smokers’ employment chances and average earnings are also damaged by smoking, creating further hardship for people, especially those who have to give up working due to smoking-related ill health.”

Citing research by the charity Action on Smoking and Health [ASH], the council has more bad news for those who like a fag, including claims that smokers earn 6.8 per cent less than non-smokers.

The council said the ASH figures show that in Wiltshire 368 women a year are smokers when they give birth and 23,114 children live in households with adults who smoke.

It adds: “Current smokers are 2.5 times more likely to require social care support at home and need care on average 10 years earlier than non-smokers, accounting for 8 per cent of local authority spending on adult social care.”

The ASH findings also showed that the average smoker is spending just under £2,000 a year on tobacco – or around £5.50 a day, about half the price of a packet of cigarettes

ASH says it found that 10,016 smoking households are driven into poverty in Wiltshire, taking into account income and smoking costs.

“The residents of these households include 19,151 adults below pension age, 2,921 pension age adults and around 9,061 dependent children,” claims the charity.

It added: “The link between smoking and disadvantage is well established, but this new analysis highlights how the impact of smoking on local communities is compounded in regions where household incomes are also lower.

“Households where people smoke are poorer because of an addiction which usually started in childhood. Two thirds of adult smokers started before they reached 18, and most of them go on to become regular adult smokers.

“Smoking is highly addictive and on average it takes thirty attempts before a smoker successfully stops for good. People living with social and economic hardship tend to be more addicted, and find it harder to quit, although they try just as often.

During 2020/21 the percentage of people that were supported by Wiltshire Council’s Health Improvement Coaches because they wanted to quit smoking almost doubled from the previous year to 27.49 per cent from 15.73 per cent in 2019/20.

Cllr Ian Blair-Pilling, Wiltshire Council Cabinet Member for Public Health, said: “As the ASH findings show, smoking can have many untold long term negative knock-on effects that people probably do not think about when first trying it.

“Smoking is estimated to kill almost 500 people a year in Wiltshire and the impact on all the families left behind cannot be overstated.

“We are here to support anyone who wants to take the first step towards quitting and on the road towards better physical and mental health. We know quitting can be a daunting challenge but where there’s a will there’s a way, and our friendly team will be there side by side with you. It will be the best decision you will ever make.”

Local support can be found at Smokefree Wiltshire on the Wiltshire Council website.