Action on Smoking and Health put the cost at an eye-watering £17bn a year – but a pro-smoking group claimed the figure was “absurd”
Smoking costs society £17billion a year – nearly £5bn more than previously estimated, a charity claims today.
Action on Smoking and Health calculated the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, social care and fire damage blamed on smokers.
It found they totalled £17.04bn for England each year, compared with £12.5bn under the previous estimate.
The huge rise comes from a reassessment of the impact of smoking on productivity.
ASH said: “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.”
Productivity costs to the economy from smoking have hit £13.2bn, according to ASH.
That includes £6bn of smoking-related lost earnings, £5.7bn of smoking-related unemployment and £1.44bn of smoking-related early deaths.
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The charity claimed healthcare costs amount to another £2.4bn, while “social care”, which “includes the cost of care provided in the home and, for the first time, residential care costs”, accounts for £1.19bn
It said “fire costs” made up nearly £283m, with “smoking-related fires are the leading cause of fire-related deaths, and the costs of property damage, injuries and deaths”.
ASH said 6.1m people smoke in England, spending a combined £11.95bn a year – or just under £2,000 each.
Chief executive Deborah Arnott said: “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.”
Pro-smokers’ group Forest blasted “the suggestion that smokers are a significant economic burden on society” as “absurd”.
Director Simon Clark said: “More than 80% of the cost of tobacco in the UK is tax and the revenue from the sale of legal tobacco is almost £10bn a year – that’s a fact.
“In contrast, the contrived claim that smoking costs society £17bn is based on nothing more than estimates and calculations.”
He added: “As well as making a huge contribution to the public purse, smokers make a significant contribution to the local economy because without the money they spend on tobacco many village shops and convenience stores would lose a regular source of income.
“The health risks of smoking are well known. If adults choose to smoke, that’s a matter for them not government.”
Ted Aldridge, 39 from Cheshire, quit smoking last year and tonight urged other addicts to stub out their habit.
He said: “I had to have my ulcerated large bowel removed in 2018 as a result of colitis brought on by years of smoking and it meant that for three years I had a bag attached.
“I only quit smoking a year ago after I was told I could have reattachment surgery because I wanted to have clean insides in preparation for the operation.
“In a year staying quit I saved £2,000 in a sealed jar – enough to pay for a holiday, a widescreen TV and a new video game console.”