Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Epic fail from The Department Of FakeStatistics

Smoking disease costs NHS £5bn, blares the BBC dutifully.

"Smoking costs the NHS five times as much as previously thought, researchers have calculated."

Nope. Last October, they claimed that "Treating smokers costs the NHS in England £2.7bn a year", so I make that 'slightly less than twice as much as previously claimed'; MiniTrue forgot to revise the previous estimate downwards first!

"In 2005, smoking accounted for almost one in five of all deaths and a significant amount of disability, the Oxford University team said."

Oo-er! As AEC points out, " Pile the numbers up, one in four smoke and only one in five die from it, back to the abacus and find some more, there is work to be done."

To be fair, they admit that " The figure of £5bn in 2005-06 equates to 5.5% of the entire NHS budget", which ain't much of a headline, and they allow a spokesman from Forest to point out that:

... the figure in the report was a guesstimate, and should be treated with contempt. Mr Clark said it was preposterous to suggest that the cost of smoking to the NHS had risen dramatically, as smoking rates had been falling for 50 years. He said: "Even if it was [sic] true, smokers still contribute twice that amount to the Treasury in tobacco taxation and VAT. Far from being a burden on society, smokers make an enormous financial contribution."

Finally, The Righteous claim that "This annual cost is still likely to be an underestimate, they say, because it does not include indirect costs, such as lost productivity and informal care, the costs of treating disease caused by passive smoking, or the full range of conditions associated with smoking."

OK, if we're going to factor in other costs, how about factoring other savings, being primarily the £12 billion in state pensions that smokers don't claim because they die younger (bullet point 3 here)?

NB - The British Heart Foundation received £4,266,000 of taxpayer's money in 2008, (note 5, page 44 to their accounts)


Paul said...

That reminds me - I shall have to sift through the annual report that I had to extract from a local QUANGO/fakecharity (wasn't on the Charity Commission website and only after I accused them of having something to hide did they give in).

I'll let you know how this goes.

QUANGOs/fake charities - eff off!

wv: Stein (I could do with one full of beer!)

Mark Wadsworth said...

Paul, you can email them to me if you have them in pdf, I could do with a laugh.

Bill Quango MP said...

Heard a bit of it on the radio but once you hear the first false note you stop listening.
I think it was 'smokers should not get free treatment on the NHS'


David Gillies said...

What does 'accounted for' 4 in 5 (20%/25%) of the deaths of practitioners mean? Does it mean 'a contributory factor in'? Or does it mean 'directly attributable in'? If the latter, then that is so risible as to be insulting. There are no - no - activities voluntarily undertaken by individuals that carry an 80% risk of mortality. If you went skydiving every day for fifty years you wouldn't even be close to that sort of risk. You have to go to the extremes of peril before the risk goes above 50%. About half of Bomber Command aircrews died during WW2. 75% of U-boat crews perished. It was pretty dodgy being an infantryman at Stalingrad. But that one has to go to such reductio ad absurdum lengths to find comparable risks merely highlights how jejune the anti-smokers' arguments are.

FWIW, I don't smoke, I have never smoked, and I regard it as a filthy habit. In an ideal world, no-one would smoke. But better a world filled with puffing nicotine addicts than one ruled by the ghastly, grey-faced prodnoses of the 'public health' lobbies.

Mark Wadsworth said...

DG, exactly. Of course smoking is pretty bad for your physical health (nobody's disputing that), but it's not THAT bad (and it's excellent for your mental health, which the the banstubators conveniently overlook).

Even if you don't smoke, it's the Niemoller thing - once they've banned smoking, they'll turn on the drinkers or pigeon fanciers or stamp collectors until they get to you!

DaveA said...

Nothing like a good smoking story to give us libertarians a chance for a good rant.

Yvonne said...

I haven't read the book yet but what I read at

looks interesting.

Velvet Glove Iron Fist
A History of Anti-Smoking

by Christopher Snowdon

Simon said...

Hi Mark

Interesting read. I found some other stats. Hope you don't mind but I've linked to this blog


Interesting stats:

* Treating illnesses and disease associated with smoking costs the NHS between £1.4bn and £1.5bn a year
* Make your money through patches - Cost of Stop Smoking Services: £61m
* £3bn is lost in revenue through tobacco smuggling
* Since 1996 (just) duty on cigarettes has risen 70% around 93p a packet
* Taking inflation into account and the rise in household income the cost of tobacco products has gone up by 143% making it 17% less affordable
* Household expenditure on tobacco has more than trebled to £16.6bn despite volumes dropping since 1980

Mark Wadsworth said...

Simon, feel free to link!

Just one comment - the "revenue lost to smuggling" is a spurious figure. How can you lose something you never had? Total receipts from tobacco duty plus VAT are about £10 billion, and that is the end of that. There is a Laffer curve to this, if they have reached a stage where higher duties lead to falling revenues, well, they can stop increasing them, can't they?

Simon said...

Hi Mark

The loss is based on HMRC extrapolating how much revenue is lost based on seized goods.

From the annual report 2007:
In 2006/07, 1.9 billion cigarettes were reported to have been seized almost 143 million less than in 2005/06. Of the 1.9 billion cigarettes seized, 580 million cigarettes were seized overseas and 1,309 million cigarettes were seized in the UK at airports, seaports, from cross channel passengers on all routes and inland. Of these seizures, 70% were counterfeit cigarettes3. In addition, 228 tonnes of HRT were seized

HMRC Autumn Report 2007, Section 4
HMRC Autumn07

It estimates that some 9%-17% will be smuggled for 2006/7, down from 21% in 2000

HMRC Autumn08

That was an argument used against the tobacco display plan - smuggled and counterfeit fags under the counter and is a real concern to HMRC if the ban goes through


Puffing Billy said...

I'm clearly not getting my monies worth from the NHS and demand a refund.