THE number of smokers in Barnsley grew last year despite a long-running council campaign to reduce its prevalence across the borough, new figures obtained by the Chronicle reveal.

Office for National Statistics data shows 17 per cent of people - aged over 18 in Barnsley - were smokers in 2021, up from the year before.

However across the UK, a fall was recorded, with e-cigarettes playing a ‘major role’ in the national decline.

Men in Barnsley smoked more than women, with 17.8 per cent taking up cigarettes, while 16.1 per cent of women smoked.

A quarter of adults now class themselves as an ex-smoker, while 57.4 per cent have never smoked.

When factoring in those with long-term mental health conditions, the percentage for both men and women jumps by more than half to 23.8 per cent.

Public health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) - which estimates smoking to cost the borough £101m in total - said the higher prevalence of smoking among those with mental health issues is a marker of geographical inequalities which see more deprived areas spiralling further into poor health and life expectancy.

Barnsley ranks among the top ten per cent most deprived of England’s 333 local authorities.

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Hazel Cheeseman, deputy chief executive of ASH, said: “With more investment into services and wider policies to reduce smoking, we can bring rates down for people with mental health conditions and everyone else.

“The government pledged to make smoking obsolete back in 2019 - it is past time that we heard how they will do this and address the terrible inequalities caused by smoking for people with mental health conditions.

“Smoking is a drain on society.

“It’s a cost to individuals in terms of their health and wealth and a cost to us all because it undermines the productivity of our economy and places additional burdens on our NHS and care services.

“Nationally government must publish their promised plan for tackling smoking but local councils must also seize the initiative and create plans for their communities that account for the tremendous burden caused by smoking.”

ASH revealed smoking costs the borough a total of £101.26m every year through a variety of means.

Healthcare costs relate to £11.7m of the total estimation, while social care is £6.62m and fire costs are £1.33m.

More than 80 per cent of the costs are accrued in the productivity section - valued at a loss of £81.61m - which relates to smoking-related lost earning and smoking-related unemployment.

About £30m is lost every year due to loss of earnings because of smoking, £43m due to unemployment because of smoking, and just over £8m due to smoking-related early deaths.

It’s also estimated almost £70m is spent on tobacco every year in the town, with each smoker spending around £2,000 on cigarettes.

A council spokesperson said: “We’re committed to see the next generation of children growing up in Barnsley in a place free from tobacco and where smoking isn’t normal.

“This is part of the regional ‘Breathe 2025’ campaign to create a smoke-free generation.

“We have a range of voluntary smoke-free areas that have been successfully rolled out across our borough.

“They’re primarily to help make smoking invisible to children and young people. This will help to de-normalise smoking to reduce the number of people taking up smoking in the first place.”