£2.5 BILLION a year up in smoke – cost of smoking in the North East revealed
New figures published today show smoking costs the North East a staggering £2.5 billion each year in lost productivity and earnings, health care and social services.
The latest cost is higher than ever thought before and comes as a Government consultation to create a smokefree generation closes tomorrow (Wed 6 Dec). It is also much higher than generated in tax from tobacco.
Fresh with Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), which carried out the analysis say the costs to the NHS, local authorities, to smokers and to the economy shows why action is now needed to make smoking history.
One of the new areas of analysis is the loss to the economy from people spending their money on tobacco which generates fewer UK jobs and lower profit margins for retailers compared with other products and services people would purchase if they didn’t buy tobacco. This found that if no one bought tobacco in the North East the total benefit to the economy in gross value added would be £665.1 million alone.
Howard Reed from Landman Economics who undertook the analysis underpinning the estimate of these costs, said: “Smoking damages society in many ways that people are often unaware of. It is in fact the economic impact of tobacco, far more than healthcare, that creates the biggest costs to society. Local economies with the highest rates of smoking will also pay the highest price often compounding already high levels of disadvantage. A smokefree future is likely to benefit poorest communities the most.”
Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh and Balance, said: “Smoking is the biggest single cause of cancer, preventable illness and death, killing over 117,000 people in the North East since the year 2000.
“Every case is a tragedy for a family, but these figures are a reminder of the drain smoking places on our economy, our NHS, on local authorities and smokers themselves. It is time to get behind the vision of a smokefree generation to prevent future health and free up billions of pounds.”
Alice Wiseman, Gateshead’s Director of Public Health and Vice President of the Association of Directors of Public Health, said: “These new figures reveal the sheer scale of cost that tobacco has on our society. We know that the majority of people who smoke start young and regret ever starting but, because they are addicted, struggle to quit.
“We know that this addiction causes untold harms to individuals’ health and that costs. It costs to provide health and social care and it costs the economy when people aren’t well enough to work. Today’s figures put a shocking price on these – and other – financial costs but what is impossible to calculate is the cost to the 64,000 families who lose a loved one every single year as a direct result of tobacco.
“We simply must make this legislation a reality.”
Cathy Hunt, 58, is a mum of four from County Durham. She was diagnosed with lung cancer and had half a lung removed in 2015 just two days before her 50th birthday. She underwent surgery again in 2022 when the cancer returned, and in June this year had a kidney removed due to cancer.
She said: “I am absolutely over the moon about the government’s plan to raise the age of sale for tobacco one year every year until we see the end of smoking, and all my family and friends are too.
“Smoking isn’t a lifestyle choice but a lethal addiction which traps hundreds of new victims in its claws every day, victims who struggle to escape. I only managed to stop once I found out I had lung cancer but wish now I could turn the clock back to the time I started smoking as a child aged 11.”
Full break down of the costs of smoking to the North East
Total cost to North East = £2.5 billion  made up of:
Productivity / economic costs = £1.6 billion
- Smoking related lost earnings = £374.5m
- Smoking related unemployment = £479.2m
- Smoking related early deaths = £87.4m
- Reduced GVA due to expenditure on tobacco = £665.1m
- Healthcare costs = £93.7m
- Social care costs = £797.3m
- Cost of domiciliary care = £34.1m
- Cost of residential care= £31.2m
- Cost of informal care by family & friends= £445.8m
- Cost of unmet care need= £286.3m
- Fire costs = £12.1 m
- Cost of deaths due to smoking attributable fires = £4.4m
- Cost of injuries due to smoking attributable fires = £2.6m
- Cost of property damage due to smoking attributable fires= £4.8m
- Annual cost to fire and rescue services due to smoking attributable fires = £370K
The Government is proposing to raise the age of sale one year every year so that those born before 2009 will never be legally sold tobacco. Last month the new administration in New Zealand pledged to repeal a similar law as part of a coalition deal claiming it would enable them to cut taxes.
Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH, said: “In New Zealand politicians have made the ludicrous claim that repealing their smokefree generation laws will allow them to cut taxes. The opposite is clearly the case. The cost of smoking to public services and public finances is far greater than the taxes tobacco raises, and there are multiple economic benefits from spending on products that have more value to the economy and create a healthier workforce.
“In England the tobacco tax take is £11.3 billion in 2023, but the cost to public finances and the economy is four times greater, so creating a smokefree generation is the prudent economic strategy for us, as it is for New Zealand.”
Last week ASH published new public opinion data showing that 73% of people in the North East back the measure. Nationally support was high across those who plan to vote for all the major parties (74% Conservative, 72% Labour, 65% Liberal Democrat) showing the level of cross party consensus on protecting the next generation from the harms from smoking.
ASH ready reckoner breakdowns are available for regions, local authorities and Integrated Care Board geographies link.