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Revenue from smoking

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Englishbird | 18:19 Tue 13th Dec 2005 | News
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I have wondered this for a while, according to a website promoting stopping smoking, The UK government earned �8,055 million (�8 bn) in revenue from tobacco duty and VAT in 2002-2003. the high end estimate is that smokers cost the nhs �1.7bn a year. And it is also suggested that if everyone stopped smoking that they would then live longer and therefore be an even great financial strain on the country. Why then is the government pushing to ban smoking and stop people smoking. It doesn't work on a financial level, is it simply the nanny state telling us what's good for us? I don't really want another row about whether or not people should smoke, more, opinions on why the government are so involved in the process? And where would they recoup this loss in revenue if we all stopped tomorrow?



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As I see it the government are not pushing to ban smoking for the benefits of smokers but for the benefits of non-smokers (or in other words people that don't contribute to the revenue raised from the sale of tobacco anyway).

The bans that are being discussed are for public places & designed to protect the health of people that choose not to smoke. Not one smoker I personally know has said they are going to stop smoking or even cut down significantly just because of any potential ban.

Well you probably shouldn't count the VAT because you'll probably end up spending saved money on "vattable" items anyway.

You also have to consider the loss to the economy of smoking related sickness absence from work.

Smokers are also likely to recover slower from unrelated illnesses also costing both employers and NHS

You also have to add in disability benefits claims and similar related to those who cannot work due to smoking related illness.

Not only that but over 40% of fires are down to smokers.

Industry also reckons it looses over �1Billion a year to cigarette breaks (although I doubt they'd recoup that if everybody stopped smoking)

All in all I'd reckon it probably works out pretty evenly on a financial basis

I'm a none smoker never have been. But do you think if everyone stops smoking it will stop the health problems. maybe after 30 years. but the revenue stops at once who pays while we wait for for the people to stop getting ill.

Englishbird. I work in a hospital, and smokers keep me in a job! Part of my role is in amputee rehab, and there is never much publicity given to people losing limbs as a direct result of smoking (people tend to relate smoking to cancers and lung diseases). One of my patients was 27 when he lost his second leg to a smoking related disease, another lady I treated was in hospital having just had her second above knee amputation on her 40th birthday. Think about the financial implications in terms of disability benefits for these people, never mind the psychological impact of the disease.

On a more personal level, my great grandmother didn't smoke, but lived at home until she was 98 with care only from relatives.She died at the age of 100. My grandmother died from lung cancer at the age of 70. I always feel that I could have spent more time with her if only she hadn't smoked. My grandfather was housebound with emphysema for 8 years, and heavily oxygen dependent in his final years. I suspect they were probably more expensive to keep than my great grandmother.

I would love the government to be more pro-active in banning smoking in public places, I don't go into pubs as breathing in other people's smoke gives me really bad asthma. Some M.P.s are sponsored by tobacco companies, others get caught in the civil liberties bandwagon. Had the time of my life on holiday in Ireland where smoking is banned in pubs, and it was lovely to go and enjoy a social evening out, and still being able to breathe. If they do ever ban it, they'll probably pile more tax onto alcohol instead ( and don't get me started on alcohol-related illness!)

If anyone wants detailed facts about smoking, it would be worth looking at the July 2004 issue of New Internationalist ( )

I hope the publishers won't mind me giving a small sample

Tobacco smoke is a potent mix of over 4,000 chemicals

It includes

Don't know what happened there

It includes acetone as in paint stripper, ammonia as in flor cleaner, arsenic as in insect poison, butane as in lighter fuel, cadmium as in car batteries, carbon monoxide as in car exhaust fumes, DDT as in insecticide, hydrogen cyanide as in gas chambers, methanol as in rocket fuel, naphthalene as in moth balls, toluene as in industrial solvent, vinyl chloride as in plastics.

A very good question but a load of crap answers. Following the logic of the answers we should ban any activity which increases your chances of dying other than from natural causes, eg driving, skiing, living to an oil storage depot etc.

I vote jake-the-peg for Chancellor

Stevie21 - you're out of a job. He can turn a net loss of �6.3 Billion in to a 'pretty even' no loss!

-- answer removed --
Gordon wants �xxxx bn. So if we all stop driving, smoking and drinking.............he would probably tax sex.
Can I get e rebate on that?
Question Author

'Civil Liberties Bandwagon' - interesting choice of phrase campbellking.

I imagine the figure that smokers cost the Nhs includes all smoking related illnesses. I wouldn't count the cost for the disabled after they leave hospital, because you could say the same about people crippled in motorcycle crashes, and I certainly don't go round counting up how much disabled people cost the rest of society.

My great grandmother also died at 98 having never been in hospital or ill, and having smoked since she was 14. indivicual cases don't really prove a point.

stoo_pid, that's a fair point that they are protecting non smokers, it would be unusual for the government to do something purely because it should, but i guess it can happen. (although i still believe that everyone can be accommodated)

Jake - some good points there.

Grunty - ever checked the stats on the air we breath?

I just get the feeling that they haven't thought it through, they pass laws because it makes them look good, with no thought for the how's and where's ... foxhunting ring a bell. I'm anti hunt, but they've cocked that up good and proper.

Is it ultimately all about getting more votes ..... ?

englishbird - yes of course I have. It's an interesting comparison with the smoke-free parts, isn't it?

I think the �1.7 Billion may be an out dated estimate - From what I can see it springs from a paper done in 1997 called: Cost effectiveness of smoking cessation interventions. London: Health Education Authority, 1997.

One of the Authors is an academic called Christine Godfrey at the University of York who has a specific interest in the economics of addictions. I can't find the original paper the HEA became the HDA which became part of NICE and it seems too old to be held at the York web site

However this is from a 1998 paper:

If anybody's interested (warning it's big)

Interesting point in this though is that we don't (didn't in 1998?) know whether in the UK we'd actually see NHS cost savings at all because if less smokers died from cancer we'd see more spending on geriatric illnesses.

We'd also see less pensions

Pretty complex subject but at the end of the day I don't think putting up tax on smoking is designed to maximise profit.

That's the diference between a government and a company - Profits are not a Governments only concern (well not unless the Tories are in :c) ) <Runs and hides>

Oh dear, only a one-star rating and a 'crap answer'. Englishbird, I think you need to do a bit of research. My young male amputee suffered from Beurgers disease which affects young men aged between 20 and 40 and the only known causative effect is heavy smoking, which leads to progressive problems with circulation leading to gangrene of all four limbs. Not a very pleasant prospect really, and rarely mentioned in tobacco advertising.

The 'civil liberties bandwagon' (much overused by tobacco companies) was used in reference to those who speak regularly of 'smokers rights'. Why individuals are given the 'right' to pollute the air space of anyone next to them in a confined space is absolutely beyond me. Medical research also shows higher incidence of childhood asthma in households where parents smoke, higher incidence of cot deaths in households where parents smoke. If the smell of cigarettes is so inoffensive, why do I regularly see smokers lobbing their fag ends out of a their car windows when I am walking down the pavement?

Everyone knows an 'uncle Fred ' who smoked until he was 106 and died a happy man, but for everyone of them there's an awful lot living with the misery of chronic lung disease, cancers, amputations, etc. If you don't believe me, pop down your local hospital and ask them what brought them in. Mind you, you'll probably see half the nurses out there smoking as well.

I have absolutely nothing against disabled people, my Mum has been disabled since the age of 9, and has cost the NHS no end of money, but to me smokers are like an uninsured person with no licence driving a motor vehicle, they're not particularly bothered who they harm because it's their right to be on the road.

I'm sure I'll get absolutely no stars (possibly minus) for this answer...

Question Author

The reason your first answer got only one star, is that it wasn't really addressing the specific question, I was asking specifically about the financial implications of smoking. I understand that the health implications then have a knock on effect to financial ones, but just didn't want another lecture on why we shouldn't smoke.

You have a justified and understandable opinion of smokers, however one I disagree with. I do have the right to smoke, I feel, as a smoker that I should be accommodated. I have no great will to force my habit on other people, but believe that I should be considered.

Smoking is an addiction, there are people that are addicted and want to give up, and people that if they weren't addicted to smoking would be addicted to drinking, drugs, gambling etc. There is a lot of research on addictions and why people become addicted. Whilst I don't doubt that I am addicted, and there are many reasons why I am, I also choose to smoke, and am a considerate smoker, and don't see that I should be punished because of it.

I don't take cocaine because I have seen first hand the awful things that happen to those who do and those around them, but I don't preach about it or tell others that they shouldn't. They're grown adults, they know it's bad for them and they make their decisions. People get clean or give up smoking when they want to, and by all means help them to once they've made that decision. No amount of being told you shouldn't do something will ever make you stop unless you want to.

campbellking - a couple of points for your consideration:

No, not a lot of publicity is given to people losing a limb due to smoking because Buerger's Disease
is very rare ( 6 out of 10,000 ); it is more common is Asians and Eastern Europeans and generally only affects the 20-40 year old bracket.

f people are prepared to take the risk of getting cancer, heart disease etc which are widely advertised and very high due to smoking, I doubt saying that there is a 6 in 10,000 chance you may have a limb amputated will stop someone from smoking

I am assuming that as someone who doesn't go into pubs because of other people's smoke, you also don't drive a car, cycling everywhere. I also assume that you don't go on holiday abroad (at least by plane) as these are one of the world's biggest polluters.

Also puzzled with your analagy of the uninsured car driver - why compare someone doing something illegal with someone doing something perfectly legal?

I would also point out that I do not smoke, having given up almost 2 years ago (so that puts the exsmokers are the worst to rest)

Right, here goes then.Oneeyedic, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but although I own a car ( a 10 year old 1 litre Nissan Micra), I only actually drive it once a week when I have to get somewhere fairly inaccessible as I walk to work (when I lived 5 miles away I used to cycle in, and I didn't own a car at all for eight years after I passed my test). If I have to travel somewhere easily accessible by public transport (i.e. the 50 mile journey to London) I go on the train. Otherwise it's Shanks' pony or the bicycle. I do sinfully go on a plane once a year.

Englishbird, I don't actually preach at my patients,but so many are in complete denial about what brought them in in the first place. My favourite one recently on the intensive care unit was a 'passive smoker' (her expression) with heavily nicotine stained fingers. You may be a considerate smoker, but there's plenty who aren't, including those who I recently asked to be removed from a non-smoking area ( which was one fifth the size of the smoking area) who then thought it would be fun to stand behind me to blow their smoke into my face. I would refer back to the point I raised in my original answer that the government are unlikely to ban smoking while some m.p.s continue to be sponsored by tobacco companies. Also consider that the Labour government relies heavily on the support of the 'working class', and that a greater proportion of smokers come from this background. It's much the same as they are unlikely to ban blood sports enjoyed by people from this background i.e. shooting when the level of cruelty employed in these activities is common amongst all of them ('s just as bad as fox hunting). By the way, I'm not a fan of any particular party, at the end of the day any politician is in the game for their own ends. Remember these are the people who can hike up their own pay rises and claim expenses until they are blue in the face

Oneeyeddic? Am curious as to why you insult my name? - still if you have to result to name calling to get your points accross, I can totally understand why people blew smoke in your face.

If you can bully on answerbank (and name calling is bullying), personally I'm glad you get bullyed when you go out.

Much apologies, oneeyedvic, I actually misread your name, and I am sorry you took such offence. Was a little curious as to why you didn't feel the Asian and Eastern European population were that worth worrying about. Personally, I live in a highly multi-cultural area with a lots of people who are second third and fourth generation immigrants, and we'd have enormous difficulty staffing our hospital without them.

Would have answered earlier, but I've been out on the bike.

Apology accepted - I have been called oneeyedic on previous occasions as an insult (and even had someone posting with that name) - hence my reaction.

Being of Asian origin myself, I do believe 'we' are worth worrying about. That said, I would prefer that money go to advertise ailments and treatments that affect the majority of people not the minority. (Yes it would be lovely if everything was funded but we all live in the real world).

I guess my point is that a lot of women suffer from breast cancer (to use an example) but we don't start screening until they turn 50. I don't know the stats, but am fairly confident that it will effect more than 6 in 10,000.

I do realise that you work in the enviroment, so you must have a different viewpoint. so lets agree to disagree on this one, and am glad you have not resorted to name calling. (Apologies for the bullying comment)

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