A NEW study has claimed that 17,000 people are out of work in the North-East due to smoking-related issues.

New analysis by Landman Economics, for health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) found that the collective impact of joblessness and lower earnings for smokers amounted to an estimated £604 million a year.

A total of 17,000 people over 21 are out of work due to smoking, with the relationship between smoking and unemployment driven primarily by smoking-related illnesses and disability.

Ailsa Rutter OBE, director of anti-smoking programme Fresh, said: “This is a terrible time for many with job insecurities around Covid and lockdown

“We understand that families and our communities now face big challenges.

“Reducing smoking is vital if we are to level up economic opportunities and close the gap between the richest and poorest and help rebuild the North East economy and people’s prospects after Covid-19.”