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It is a popular myth that tobacco smoking benefits the UK through taxes. However, the costs of smoking to society are actually much greater than tobacco generates to the Treasury.


The Policy Exchange think tank has calculated in its Cough Up report that the overall economic burden of tobacco use to society costs at least £13.7 billion a year compared to the £10bn it brings in. The Policy Exchange concluded every cigarette is costing the country and the Treasury, and higher tobacco taxation is needed to plug this gap. 


These societal costs comprise not only the cost of treating smokers on the NHS but also the loss in productivity from smoking breaks and increased absenteeism, the cost of cleaning up cigarette butts; the cost of smoking related house fires, and also the loss in economic output from the deaths of smokers and passive smokers. These costs did not include the massive costs borne by councils and smokers themselves for social care needed as a result of smoking-related diseases, nor as a contributor to poverty in society.


It is estimated only around 10p in every £1 spent on tobacco stays in the local economy. Overall, the main smoking related diseases are conservatively estimated to cost the North East over £160 million per year, including:


• A cost of £88 million to the NHS in GP appointments, hospital admissions, outpatient appointments, nurse consultations and prescription costs
• 473,000 GP appointments a year
• 101,000 hospital appointments and outpatient visits a year
• £37 million to the regional economy each year through increased levels of sickneess and absenteeism
• Nearly £37 million to local authorities in funding social care costs for adults with smoking-related diseases, and £27 million paid by people with smoking-related diseases paying for their own care - a combined cost of £64 million
• Keeping at least 34,000 households in the region trapped in poverty


It has been estimated using the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence's Tobacco Return on Investment Tool that cutting smoking rates to 5% across the North East by would not only save thousands of lives, but an estimated £100million a year, freeing up around £50 million for the NHS, significantly easing the strain on hospitals and GP surgeries, as well as significantly cutting the cost of smoking related sickness on local businesses. Read the story.


To see the impact of smoking and the cost to the North East, click on our 'Smoking - The Facts' publication.  For local area breakdowns visit local pages within Research, Monitoring and Evaluation.