There were a total of 506,100 hospital admissions during 2019/20 according to NHS figures.
This marks an increase of 40,000 from 10-years ago.
The overall rise in admissions is “a stark reminder that we have a huge way to go,” says Hodges.
“Smoking is the biggest cause of preventable death in the UK and not only puts lung health at risk but also causes heart attacks, strokes and cancer.”
Only circulatory disease admissions decreased in the previous year. These types of admissions fell by 5% during 2019/20 - 20,000 fewer compared to when data was first recorded.
“At the moment it is more important than ever that people stay well and out of hospital to protect themselves and the NHS,” said the charity’s senior policy officer. “Quitting smoking is an important way of doing this.”
Respiratory issues and Covid-19
The most common admission for both men and women was chronic airway obstruction.
Almost one in five admissions were for this respiratory disease diagnosis.
Trachea, lung and bronchus admissions were the second most common. They accounted for over one in 10 of hospital admissions.
Smokers are more at risk from respiratory issues because of the damage it causes to lungs.
Alongside this, Covid-19 is particularly more fatal for those with difficulties breathing. This poses a greater risk for smokers and “one of the best things people can do to keep their lungs healthy is to stop smoking,” says Hodges.
“People who smoke are five times more likely to get the flu and twice as likely to get pneumonia. Quitting smoking is one of the best ways to protect yourself from viral infections, including coronavirus.
“[But], for many people, the pandemic encouraged them to think about their lungs for the first time and take action to keep their lungs healthy. Research has found that the numbers of people trying to quit smoking last year were the highest seen in over a decade.”
Falling number of deaths
In 2019, the total number of admissions attributable to smoking reached a 10-year high but deaths fell by 3%.
The main contributing factor has been a reduction in the number of circulatory disease deaths.
There were almost a third fewer deaths caused by this particular disease in 2019 compared to 2009.
Overall, deaths peaked in 2009 where 164,000 were recorded. Latest figures show a 9% decrease to 149,200.
Dependencies on smoking
Part of the treatment for people dependent on smoking is prescriptions.
These prescriptions fall under pharmacotherapies which is the treatment for a disease disorder through medication.
Examples of pharmacotherapy for smoking include nicotine replacement therapies or various types of medication.
Hospitals in England have different rates for residents who require specific prescriptions.
The highest rate of people needing pharmacotherapies to help ease their smoking dependency was the NHS Bradford Clinical Commission Group (CCG).
The rate in NHS Bradford was 45 - over three times higher than the average across all CCGs in England which was 13.
A spokesperson for Bradford Council said: “Our smoking rates have fallen for the third successive year in Bradford to 16.5%, but we still remain above the regional (15.7%) and the national average (13.9%).”
“Although we are making progress in reducing the number of people in the District smoking, we are not doing so at the same pace as other areas. There are still groups where smoking rates remain stubbornly high, such as among people in manual occupations and individuals who suffer from a serious mental illness.”
Given the high rate of pharmacotherapy, demand for cessation services has grown during the pandemic in Bradford.
More people are wanting to stop, with the #QuitForCovid campaign motivating many to seek support.
“During Covid-19, people are taking the opportunity to focus on improving their health and wellbeing. It is too early to say whether this will result in a reduction in smoking rates but we are building on this momentum and encouraging everyone to make a quit attempt.
“Our behavioural sessions with Stop Smoking Advisors are taking place via telephone instead of face-to-face consultations. This has been met positively by our service users and Advisors are generally reporting less ‘Did-Not-Attends’ due to the greater flexibility provided in arranging telephone consultations.”
Out of the top-10 pharmacotherapy rates, four of the CCGs were in the North West region.
This included Manchester, Stockport, Oldham and Warrington.
Figures for 2020 showed that the Manchester CCG had 20,172 prescription items that were used for treatment. This was the second-highest number in England.
The CURE project is an initiative that was designed to reduce the number of people dependent on smoking in the Greater Manchester area.
Rachel Hodges says the CURE Project means “patients are far more likely to stop successfully.”
“All inpatients who smoke are given treatment to stop smoking in the hospital. It was an ambition in the NHS Long Term Plan to replicate this model in all hospitals in England – which is great news.
“We urge the NHS to ensure funding is available for this rollout and that hospitals are supported to implement it so that all patients have the best chance of stopping smoking for good.”
Rising admissions despite tobacco price increases
There are concerns that even with tobacco prices increasing yearly, hospital admissions because of smoking continue to increase.
In 2019, people in the United Kingdom spent just under two billion pounds on tobacco.
This marked an annual decrease for the first time in three years. But, in the past decade, household expenditure on tobacco has grown on average by 2% each year.
Quitting smoking is “quite simply incredibly difficult,” says Hodges.
“Nicotine is highly addictive, and smokers will develop a level of physical dependence on their use of tobacco. Because of this physical addiction, some people may find it takes a long time to stop for good.
“We need to ensure we do everything we can to help and encourage people to stop. Increasing prices is an important part of this, but is not a silver bullet. Stress is a factor for why lots of people smoke, and during this incredibly difficult year, for some it has been even harder to quit.
“The good news is the NHS has designed services to provide support to help people quit. Having access to the most effective methods of quitting means smokers are more likely to be successful, quit earlier and save further damage to their health.“
You can view the data used in this article here.
To view further information and analysis, check out this repo on GitHub.
Picture source: Sophie Riches (Via: Wikimedia Commons)