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ASH Counts Cost Of Smoking

Anti-smoking charity Action on Smoking and Health says that smoking costs society £17bn – which is £5bn more than previously estimated

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Anti-smoking charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) says that smoking costs society £17bn – which is £5bn more than previously estimated. The figure comes from new economic analysis of national data covering England. The previous estimate was £12.5bn.

ASH says the higher estimate is a result of a new assessment of the impact of smoking on productivity. Smokers are more likely than non-smokers to become ill while of working age increasing the likelihood of being out of work and reducing the average wages of smokers. Smokers are also more likely to die while they are still of working age creating a further loss to the economy. Together this adds up to £13.2bn.

The charity explains that smokers’ need for health and social care at a younger age than non-smokers also creates costs, with smoking costing the NHS an additional £2.4bn and a further £1.2bn in social care costs. This includes the cost of care provided in the home and, for the first time, residential care costs. However, many of smokers’ care needs are met informally by friends and family. It’s estimated that to provide paid-for care to meet needs would cost society a further £14bn, this is not included in the overall £17bn figure but illustrates the wider burden of smoking beyond pounds and pence.

Smoking-related fires are the leading cause of fire-related deaths, and the costs of property damage, injuries and deaths amount to another £280m.

ASH writes: “These figures represent profound losses to individuals and their families with smokers paying the price of addictions established in childhood throughout their lives. Smokers also lose a large part of their income to tobacco an estimated £12bn in England each year, or approximately £2,000 per smoker. While the tobacco industry argue that what smokers pay in tax compensates for the cost to society, the excise tax paid for 2020/21 totalled just under £10bn in England, higher than in previous years but still nowhere near the £17.04bn it cost society in 2019.”

Other economic analysis commissioned by ASH last year found that if the country could stub out smoking for good the economic benefits would go even wider as smokers switch their spending from tobacco to other goods and services which benefit the economy more. In total this would generate around half a million jobs, with a net benefit to public finances of £600m.

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health says: “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.

“The Government have delayed the tobacco control plan it promised last year which is now urgently needed with only 8 years left to achieve the goal of England being smokefree by 2030.”


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Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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