THE number of adults smokers in Blackburn with Darwen is back on the rise with more than 20,000 people indulging in the habit councillors have been told.

The alarming news comes in a report to the borough's executive board by public health director Abdul Razaq.

He recommends the authority adds a new Community Stop Smoking Service to its existing pharmacy-led model of stop smoking support.

The new programme would cost £289,071 on top of the current £159,400 for the pharmacy-led service which will continue.

The extra cost will be paid for from government grants.

Mr Razaq's report says: "Tobacco is still the biggest cause of health inequalities and a major disease burden and cause of death in Blackburn with Darwen.

"Smoking is linked to almost every indicator of disadvantage and there is a clear gradient, the more disadvantaged you are the more likely you are to smoke.

"Overall the cost of smoking for Blackburn with Darwen is a staggering £187.2million based on 22,298 smokers which is derived from the four following areas:

• productivity costs - £122.6m;

• social care costs - £56.4m;

• healthcare costs - £7.1m; and

• fire costs – £1.2m.

"The government is investing an additional £70m per year to support local authority led stop-smoking services and support.

"This paper sets out proposals to utilise the additional grant funding allocations announced in November 2023 by commissioning a comprehensive 'Stop Smoking Service' for Blackburn with Darwen.

"This new service will be in addition to the pharmacy-led model of stop smoking support available to residents currently in place.

"Data drawn from the Local Tobacco Control Profiles notes that smoking prevalence in Blackburn with Darwen rose to 19.4 per cent in 2022 from 15.5 per cent in 2021, the highest level since 2016

(19.5 per cent).

"The latest full year data of service performance of the community pharmacy stop smoking service is that 478 patients set a quit date in 2022 / 2023 and of those patients who set a quit date, 267 (56 per cent) achieved a successful quit whereas 96 patients (20 per cent) were lost to service.

"The successful quit rate is higher than the England average.

"Based on data drawn from GP surgeries and the smoking health equity audit undertaken in 2023 suggests that there are 20,374 smokers in Blackburn with Darwen.

"Action on Smoking and Health suggest the figure is 22,298 based on published 2022 Annual Population Survey and Local Tobacco Profile data.

"The agreement to retain the Stop Smoking Service in pharmacies will support the continuity of care for those patients registered on the programme.

"It will also enable a presence within key neighbourhoods throughout and beyond the period of mobilisation of a new community stop smoking service."

The specifications and award of the contract for the new service will be taken by Mr Razaq and the council's public health boss Cllr Damian Talbot in consultation with the NHS.