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Smokers cost London’s economy £2.6bn a year, figures reveal

Smokers lose on average £2,451 per year on tobacco  (PA Wire)
Smokers lose on average £2,451 per year on tobacco (PA Wire)

Smokers are costing the capital £2.6 billon each year in lost productivity, new figures reveal, as campaigners renew calls for a levy on tobacco companies.

London has the highest annual smoking productivity costs in England, with almost 800,000 smokers, data commissioned by charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) shows.

Healthcare costs related to smoking in the capital top £242 million each year, as well as £125.7 million in social care costs and £47.6 million in fire costs.

That makes the overall cost of smoking in London an eye-watering £3 billion each year, according to the data set.

That’s around a fifth of the overall cost of smoking in England each year (£17.3 billion) including a significant cost to the NHS and social care.

Smoking-related hospital admissions and primary care treatments cost £1.9 billion yearly, while it costs local authorities in England £1.1 billion each year on care for smoking-related illnesses in later life.

Smoking is a massive burden on society, Deputy CEO of ASH Hazel Cheeseman said.

“Smoking is still the leading cause of preventable ill-health and death in the country but resources to tackle it have been reduced.

“Recent announcements by Public Health Minister will not be enough to meet the Government’s ambition for England to be smokefree by 2030.

“We urgently need a levy on tobacco companies to pay for services which support people to quit smoking and to prevent uptake among young people.”

Smoking-related sickness is causing smokers to face job losses during the cost of living crisis, reduction in wages, and being more likely to die prematurely, ASH said.

Family budgets are feeling the pinch too, with each smoker on average spending an estimated £2,451 each per year on tobacco - more than £14 billion across England.

ASH said that reducing smoking would ease pressure on families and allow them to spend disposable income on products that would boost the local economy instead.

But the charity and other NHS health experts have criticised the Government’s package of measures aimed at driving smoking rates down below 5 per cent by 2030, introduced in April.

The measures include encouraging people to swap tobacco products for vapes, offering up to £400 to pregnant women to stop smoking and cracking down on the illegal sale of vapes to under-18s.

But ministers ruled out raising the minimum age to buy cigarettes from 18.

In an opinion piece published in The BMJ, the experts said the announcements are a “step forward” but “meagre” spending on tobacco control could cost the economy billions.