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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 calculated in its Cough Up report in 2010 how the overall economic burden of tobacco use to society costs more than the revenue it brings in, stating:


"It is a popular myth that smoking is a net contributor to the economy – our research finds that every single cigarette smoked costs the country 6.5 pence. In order to balance income and costs, tobacco duty should be progressively increased until the full societal cost of smoking is met through taxation"


Societal costs for smoking 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. Additional costs are the massive costs borne by councils and smokers themselves for social care needed as a result of smoking-related diseases, and as a contributor to poverty in society.


Overall, it has been calculated that smoking now costs the North East a staggering £613.8 million a year (1), including:


  • A £127.5 million bill to the NHS from over 1.2 million GP consultations, over 256,000 hospital admissions and outpatient visits, and 693,133 GP prescriptions every year. 
  • A £45.3 million cost to North East local authorities for funding additional social care in later life as a result of smoking-related illnesses, and individuals and families paying out another £38.4m a year to fund their own social care. 
  • 5,584 early deaths from smoking every year 
  • A cost of £386.4m to the regional economy and businesses, including 6211 years of lost economic activity from early deaths costing businesses around £148.4m, £73.2 million due to absenteeism from smoking-related illnesses, losing around 794,000 days of lost productivity, and £164.8 million from smoking breaks 
  • £15.1 million as a result of smoking related house fires 
  • 224 tonnes of cigarette waste annually, of which 94 tonnes is discarded as street litter which must be collected by local authorities


Smokers spend an average of £2,050 on cigarettes each year – around £757 million in total. Smoking is also a significant cause of poverty. Around 102,087 or 34% of North East households where someone smokes falls below the poverty line. If these smokers were to quit, it would lift 33,989 households out of poverty.


1: Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Local Costs of Smoking Tool at