SMOKING costs Swindon more than £48m a year through sick days, treatment costs and cigarette breaks, new analysis suggests.

Anti-smoking charity Action on Smoking and Health calculated the costs from data sources like hospital admissions, smoking rates and mortality figures.

Responding to the £48m estimates, Swindon public health chief Brian Ford said the council was increasing the number of smoke-free zones across the town and clamping down on illegal tobacco.

The new analysis indicates smoking costs the Swindon economy £33m a year in sick days, smoking breaks and early retirement.

On average, smokers suffer an extra 2.7 sick days a year compared with non-smokers, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence estimates.

Smoking cost Swindon’s NHS a further £10m a year through extra hospital visits and appointments. Care homes and social services are thought to be £4.8m poorer.

In Swindon, an estimated 15 per cent of adults in the town were smokers in 2016. Each successful quitter cost the council and NHS £991.

Coun Ford, lead member for public health, said: “The number of adult smokers in Swindon has fallen in recent years and our tobacco control work, involving various partners and agencies, continues to build on that so we reduce the amount of money smoking costs our community.

“This is reflected in our five priorities for tobacco control, which are protecting children and young people from taking up smoking, creating smoke-free play parks and zones across the borough, supporting smokers to quit through GPs, pharmacies and our specialist service, reducing the amount of illicit tobacco in the community, and raising the profile of tobacco control.”

Last month, Chris Woodward, the borough’s anti-smoking boss, said the council was waging a war on counterfeit tobacco because the easy availability of the cheaper cigarettes stopped people from quitting smoking.

She added: “From a public health perspective, quitting smoking is the single most important thing anyone can do to improve their health.”

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said: “These figures show just how significant the financial impact of smoking is at local level and makes the case for local authorities to invest in measures to discourage young people from taking up smoking and motivate adult smokers to quit.

“However, cuts to public health budgets mean that many local authorities no longer have the resources they need to invest in driving down smoking rates.”

Nationally, campaigners have called for higher taxes on tobacco firms, with the money going to services that help people quit smoking.

Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, said: “A levy on tobacco companies would ensure there is sustained funding for tobacco control thus crucially help to drive down smoking rates.”