Despite the widespread knowledge about the harmful effects of tobacco smoking, tobacco use remains the single biggest cause of preventable illness and premature deaths in England.
Current stats show:
- Smoking in England causes around 74,600 deaths a year
- During 2020, smoking in England caused an estimated 506,100 smoking-related admissions to NHS hospitals
In total, experts say this burden on the English National Health Service costs £2.5 billion a year. The government says it is “determined to cut this expenditure” as well as continuing to claim it aims to make England a ‘smoke-free’ country by 2030.
Professor Francesco Moscone, a business economics expert at Brunel University London, conducted the study to assess potential savings for the NHS if some of England’s smokers converted to vapes.
He said: “Cancer, heart disease, stroke, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema are the five main disease categories caused by smoking cigarettes. Such illnesses put significant burdens on the NHS, which we know is already under increasing pressure. Although the long-term effects of RRPs are still unknown, we know from previous research that alternatives to traditional cigarettes result in a 90% reduction in the exposure to chemicals that are major contributors to health risks.”
The study, published in the British Journal of Healthcare Management, had Professor Moscone calculating that a switching to vapes would have a 70% reduction in smoking-related diseases, based on the assumption that they would no longer be exposed to smoking’s harmful chemicals.
Professor Francesco Moscone added: “Under a 50% conversion scenario, with half of smokers turning to RRPs, the NHS would save an estimated £518 million in an average year. If the conversion rate was just 10%, the NHS would save £103 million. If smokers transitioned to RRPs, it would significantly reduce the pressure on the NHS and free up much-needed hospital resources for other treatments.”
The study also highlighted how the impact would have a geographical dimension as regions such as the North East & Yorkshire have almost double the number of lung cancer patients as other English regions.
The professor demonstrated that the North East & Yorkshire smoking related challenges runs to a cost of more than £156 million a year – and would therefore experience the largest benefit from encouraging smokers to switch to vaping.
“If 10% of smokers in the North East & Yorkshire switched to RRPs, the total expenditure savings for the NHS would be £30 million. If half of smokers in the region made the switch, the NHS would save £148 million. Embracing the transition to [vapes] would not only save the NHS millions of pounds, but it would present a crucial opportunity for us to regain momentum and align with our ambitious 2030 plan.
“By embracing innovation and recognising the potential of RRPs, we can chart a course towards a future with reduced risks while remaining resolute in our commitment to achieving our goals,” he concluded.
It was reported last year that the government is set to miss the 2030 target by “at least 7 years” unless it takes urgent action – with sections of society experiencing the greatest levels of inequality not meeting the target until 2044.