Thursday, 18 March 2010

I'll see your £5 billion and raise you £13.74 billion

The 'cost-of-smoking-to-the-NHS' continues to soar...

ASH, October 2008: "The annual cost of smoking to the NHS in England has soared from £1.7 billion a year in 1998 to £2.7 billion this year."

The Daily Mirror, June 2009: "Shocking new figures today reveal that smoking costs the NHS more than £5 billion a year – five times the current accepted figure."

The Daily Torygraph, March 2010: "Research conducted by Policy Exchange found found that while tax on tobacco raised £10 billion a year for the Treasury, the annual cost of healthcare and other consequences of smoking totalled £13.74 billion.

"That total includes £2.7 billion of NHS care, £2.9 billion lost in productivity during smoking breaks, the £342 million cost of cleaning up butts and £507 million spent putting out fires. Lost productivity due to the deaths of smokers and passive smoking victims costs £4.8 billion and £2.9 billion is lost in increased absenteeism, their report - Cough Up - concluded."


Notwithstanding that the figures on that non-exhaustive list add up to £14.149 billion and not £13.74 billion, how on earth is a smoking break a 'cost to the taxpayer'? That's like saying that since most people don't work at weekends, weekends cost the economy about £400 billion per annum. Further, even if the cost were £13.74 billion, that works out at about £3 or £4 per smoker per day, which is less than the total tax on a packet of fags (VAT, tobacco duties etc etc) - the £10 billion figure does not include VAT, of course.

10 comments:

Henry Crun said...

Perhaps the NHS should kick the nicotine substitute habit. And thos ads for hectoring people to quit smoking must cost a few bob as well.

manwiddicombe said...

how on earth is a smoking break a 'cost to the taxpayer'?

With the current size of the public sector ... ... ...

Paul Lockett said...

What ticks me off most about the figures they churn out is that they only look at one side of the equation. To conclude anything meaningful, you also need to look at the costs of NOT smoking. That would imply a longer lifespan, resulting in more pension payments, long term care for degenerative illnesses, etc.

In terms of the state's view of people as revenue generating units, their perfect citizen would be someone who smokes and drinks heavily, handing over lots of tax in the process and then drops dead of a heart attack at 65 before the costs start to mount up.

Unfortunately, that doesn't fit their preferred narrative.

Mark Wadsworth said...

PL, indeed. If smokers die ten years earlier than others, the magic fag packet says that this saves about £12 billion per annum in state pensions etc.

ukipwebmaster said...

Perhaps they did the calculations on the back of a cigarette packet?

;-)

formertory said...

Surprised that you missed the bit about "each cigarette smoked costs the taxpayer 6.7p" :-))

Mark Wadsworth said...

U, the back of my fag packet beats theirs hands down.

FT, I couldn't reconcile that figure to anything at all. Tax per fag is like 15p or 20p or something, so that must be one incorrect figure minus a completely made-up figure.

formertory said...

so that must be one incorrect figure minus a completely made-up figure

Ah. A completely, crushingly normal piece of figures reporting, then. It certainly had the right feel about it.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

Smoking breaks?

Possibly it's because people hanging around outside getting their hit are actually being paid to work, not to smoke?

Weekends are nothing to do with it, assuming you don't get paid for weekends when you are not supposed to be at work.

Also there must a cost of the resentment arising in the rest of the workforce because a few get ten minutes off every hour or so and nobody questions it...

Next?

Mark Wadsworth said...

WY, "people hanging around outside getting their hit are actually being paid to work, not to smoke?"

Isn't that an issue between employer and employee? What on earth business is of anybody else to stick their noses in?

If an employer refuses to employ smokers, or offers them a lower salary, then so be it. All the fun people will just go and work somewhere else.