Smokers’ group rejects £17bn cost to society claim

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Smokers’ rights campaigners have dismissed a new calculation by ASH that claimed smoking costs £5 billion more than previously estimated.

The analysis commissioned by charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), published Thursday, shows that the cost of smoking to society totals £17.04bn for England each year. This compares to £12.5bn under the previous estimate.

ASH said the higher estimate is a result of a new assessment of the impact of smoking on productivity.

Rejecting this analysis, Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ lobby group Forest, said: “The suggestion that smokers are a significant economic burden on society is absurd.

“More than 80 per cent of the cost of tobacco in the UK is tax and the revenue from the sale of legal tobacco is almost £10 billion a year. That’s a fact. In contrast, the contrived claim that smoking costs society £17 billion is based on nothing more than estimates and calculations.”

He has also highlighted the significant contribution to the local economy, noting that many village shops and convenience stores would lose a regular source of income without the money the smokers spend on tobacco.

“The health risks of smoking are well known. If adults choose to smoke that’s a matter for them not government. Ministers must remember that and not be swayed by exaggerated claims about the cost of smoking to society,” Clark added.