Cost of smokers
Much is made by anti-tobacco groups of the cost of smokers and smoking to the NHS (or the economy) in the UK, but such bland statements generally ignore various factors.
First is the claim that smoking breaks cost the economy millions, or even billions while conveniently ignoring 'coffee breaks' that the non-smokers take.
The fact that breaks are needed/highly recommended in some jobs to remain productive seems to be ignored, as is the rather overwhelming fact that workers taking breaks (of any kind) is a matter between employer and employee, and as long as the work gets done, then there is no monetary cost:
Also mentioned in the referenced Daily Mail article is the claim that smokers have more sick days off than non-smokers, with reference to Weng, Ali & Leonardi-Bee (2012) - a piece of research with data of dubious provenance:
- if 3 non-smokers out of a workforce of 1000 have a sick day off, the implication to the research is that there will be about 4 smokers who have a day off. Or put another way, if sick days by smokers are costing business £1.1billion, then sick days by non-smokers are costing those same businesses a similar (but obviously smaller) amount - this amount is never mentioned, but from those numbers £0.83billion would be a decent estimate.
- the researchers cherry-picked their data - it was a meta-study of 29 studies, and of those they examined they used at most 17, and at least 8, to produce individual 'findings.'
Sickness in general
Largely bunkum as one commentator points out:
If every smoker stopped smoking tomorrow, would the ever decreasing number of bins (especially those with ashtrays in them) disappear completely?
Would thousands of people who clean the streets of litter suddenly find themselves unemployed?
Or would Blackburn and Darwin council/Kingdom Environmental Services be deprived of a further £617,000/yr of income?
Or £48,700/year (they get 15% of the fines, Kingdom keep the rest) in Flintshire
Cost to the NHS
Another claim is that smokers cost the NHS, and that they should pay extra for their habit. Ignoring the fact that they already do.
- Flat excise duty of £207.99 per 1000 cigarettes.
- Excise rate of 16.50%
- VAT rate of 20%
|Inc VAT+Excise||VAT||Inc Excise alone||%age excise||Flat rate excise||Net||Total Tax||Tax %age of Cost|
Excise on tobacco in the UK for 2012 will be equal to 16.5% of the (pre-excise, pre-tax) retail price plus an equivalent £167.41 per 1,000 cigarettes (£3.3482 per 20.) On top of this 20% VAT is charged. On a £7.50 packet of Marlboro for example, the net cost is £2.02, Excise £4.23 and VAT £1.25 for a total tax-take of £5.48 (73%):
|Inc VAT+Excise||VAT||Inc Excise alone||Excise||Net||Total Tax||Tax %age of Cost|
Income for 2011/12 (the year prior to these figures) were £9.5bn from Excise and £2.6bn from VAT for a total of £12.1bn. Health care spending (including spending on the likes of Alcohol Concern, ASH, and homoeopathy) was £121.3bn for 2011
In 2017  excise was estimated to be £10.7bn and VAT £2.1bn for a total of £12.8bn.
Note that this implied 10% total funding of the NHS from tobacco, does not include the other tax extracted from smokers (in the manner it is extracted from non-smokers) in the form of VAT on all other products, excise on other products such as fuel etc. (I explicitly don't include excise from alcohol, since there are similar arguments to tobacco that can be made for that.)
Finally, there is the alleged cost to the 'tax-payer' in the form of old-aged smokers
- if people do have smoking related illnesses in old age, they are more likely to die earlier
- thus they will require less treatment
- additionally they will be drawing down less state retirement pension
However some anti-smoking rhetoric will put an early death as a detriment to the economy:
Patent nonsense - unemployment in the UK has never been below 3% since 1971 and never been below 5% since 1975. Anyone leaving the workforce due to any reason is likely to be replaced with one of the unemployed:
This also ignores the fact that we do not have a duty to live as long as we can to be sponged off by the state/contribute to the economy. Any commentator coming up with a "lost" money figure is being necessarily speculative, and likely presumes that any (ex-)smoker dying "earlier" than actuarial life tables suggest has died primarily because of smoking.
Additionally Policy Exchange released Nash & Featherstone 2010 which stated:
£4.813 billion divided by 83,000 people is £57,987.95. I rather suspect that your average person who's died from "smoking related disease/illness" would not - had they lived - have contributed £58,000 per annum to the economy had they not died. Or more pertinently not smoked.
They also, no doubt, don't bother including the other side of the fence: the people who are (ex-)smokers who live longer such as Jeanne Calment (died 122) who smoked most of her life, Buster Martin (died 104, but exact age disputed) who smoked from the age of seven until his death.
- Smokers cost businesses £2.1bn a year due to 'fag breaks' and sickness - The Daily Mail
- Working in comfort – Taking breaks and varying your tasks - Hewlett Packard
- More Smoking “Research” - Longrider
- Cost of smoking to East Lancashire's economy calculated as £163million - Lancashire Telegraph
- Smoking costs Plymouth £78.2million a year - This is Plymouth
- 163 million? Let's have a fag and take a closer look. - The Moose
- - More 'cost of smoking' bollocks - It's all bollocks
- Kingdom - Another Attack on Smokers? - The Moose blog
- <Litter fine company catches almost 5,000 people in Flintshire - Daily Post
- Tobacco Products Duty Rates - HMRC
- Tax revenue from tobacco - Tobacco Manufacturers Association
- Homeopathy still being funded on NHS - The Telegraph
- Total Public Spending Expenditure 2011 - UK Public Spending
- Smoking and the Public Purse - iea
- United Kingdom Unemployment Rate - Trading Economics
- Cough up: Nash & Featherstone 2010
- 2011 Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (SOC 2000) - Office for National Statistics
- Pensioners’ Incomes Series 2010-11 - Department for Work and Pensions; page 20
- How to live to 100... beer, fags and red meat - The Sun
- The strange tale of Buster Martin - The Guardian